What is the flu? — The flu is an infection that can cause fever, cough, body aches, and other symptoms. The most common type of flu is the "seasonal" flu. There are different forms of seasonal flu, for example, "type A" and "type B."
All forms of the flu are caused by viruses. The medical term for the flu is "influenza."
Besides seasonal flu, there is also the "swine" flu, which caused a worldwide outbreak ("pandemic") in 2009 and 2010, and the bird flu. Bird flu (also known as "avian flu") is a severe form of the flu that is caused by a type of flu virus that first infected birds.
All forms of the flu can cause
Flu symptoms can come on very suddenly.
It can be. Most people get over the flu on their own, without any lasting problems. But some people need to go to the hospital because of the flu. And some people even die from it. This is because the flu can cause a serious lung infection called pneumonia. That's why it's important to keep from getting the flu in the first place.
People at higher risk of getting very sick from the flu include:
If you or your child is in one of these groups, talk to a doctor or nurse. He or she can help you decide if you or your child needs treatment. In some cases, family members of a person with the flu might also need medicine to help prevent them from getting it.
Yes. There are tests for the flu. In most cases, your doctor can tell if you have the flu by your symptoms. But in some cases – for example, if you are at risk for having other problems caused by the flu – your doctor might do a test for flu.
Table 1: Hand washing to prevent spreading illness
|Wet your hands and put soap on them|
|Rub your hands together for at least 20 seconds. Make sure to clean your wrists, fingernails, and in between your fingers.|
|Rinse your hands|
|Dry your hands with a paper towel that you can throw away|
If you are not near a sink, you can use a hand gel to clean your hands. The gels with at least 60 percent alcohol work the best. But it is better to wash with soap and water if you can.
If you think you have the flu, stay home, rest, and drink plenty of fluids. You can also take acetaminophen (sample brand name: Tylenol) to relieve fever and aches.
Do not give aspirin or medicines that contain aspirin to children younger than 18. In children, aspirin can cause a serious problem called Reye syndrome.
Most people with the flu get better on their own within 1 to 2 weeks. But you should call your doctor or nurse if you:
Take your child to the doctor if he or she:
If you decide to go to a walk-in clinic or a hospital because of the flu, tell someone right away why you are there. The staff might ask you to wear a mask or to wait someplace where you are less likely to spread your infection.
Whether or not you see a doctor or nurse, you should stay home while you are sick with the flu, or keep your child home if he or she is sick. Do not go to work or school until your fever has been gone for at least 24 hours, without taking medicine such as acetaminophen. If you work with patients, such as in a hospital or clinic, you might need to stay home longer if you are still coughing. Also, always cover your mouth and nose with the inside of your elbow when you cough or sneeze.
Yes, people with the flu can get medicines called antiviral medicines. These medicines can help people avoid some of the problems caused by the flu. Not every person with the flu needs an antiviral medicine, but some people do. Your doctor or nurse will decide if you need an antiviral medicine. Antibiotics do not work on the flu.
The flu can be very dangerous for pregnant women. If you are pregnant, it is very important that you get the flu vaccine. You should also avoid taking care of anyone who has the flu.
If you are pregnant, call your doctor or nurse right away if:
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