Influenza (also known as the flu) is a contagious respiratory illness caused by flu viruses. It can cause mild to severe illness, and at times can lead to death. The flu is different from a cold. The flu usually comes on suddenly. People who have the flu often feel some or all of these symptoms:
- Fever* or feeling feverish/chills
- Sore throat
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Muscle or body aches
- Fatigue (tiredness)
- Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in children than adults.
* It’s important to note that not everyone with flu will have a fever.
- Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
- If you are sick with flu-like illness, CDC recommends that you stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone except to get medical care or for other necessities. (Your fever should be gone without the use of a fever-reducing medicine.)
- While sick, limit contact with others as much as possible to keep from infecting them.
- Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. Germs spread this way.
- Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that may be contaminated with germs like the flu.
- See Everyday Preventive Actions and Nonpharmaceutical Interventions (NPIs) for more information about actions – apart from getting vaccinated and taking medicine – that people and communities can take to help slow the spread of illnesses like influenza (flu).
Study: Coughs last longer than people think they will
Coughs take a longer time to go away than we think they will, according to a new study, often leading people to seek unneeded medical care and receive unnecessary treatment. Researchers found that the average cough, usually from a cold or other respiratory illness, lasts nearly 18 days, while people expect it to go away after just six to nine days. The researchers noted that getting this information to patients could reduce unnecessary doctor visits and treatment, which is usually antibiotics, even though they don’t work against the viruses that cause most of these illnesses.
When should you see your doctor for a cough? Study researcher Dr. Mark Ebell of the University of Georgia Health Science Campus said reasons would include having chronic lung disease or another serious chronic illness, shortness of breath or significant wheezing, coughing up blood or rusty-colored sputum, or a sudden worsening of symptoms.
Most people who get influenza will recover in a few days to less than two weeks, but some people will develop complications (such as pneumonia) as a result of the flu, some of which can be life-threatening and result in death.
Pneumonia, bronchitis, and sinus and ear infections are three examples of complications from flu. The flu can make chronic health problems worse. For example, people with asthma may experience asthma attacks while they have the flu, and people with chronic congestive heart failure may have worsening of this condition that is triggered by the flu.
Who is at high risk for developing flu complications?
The flu is a serious disease, especially for certain age groups and people with certain chronic health conditions, such as:
- Children younger than 5, but especially younger than 2 years old
- Adults 65 years of age and older
- Pregnant women
- People with chronic lung disease (such as asthma and COPD), diabetes (type 1 and 2), heart disease, neurologic conditions, blood disorders, immunosuppression and certain other long-term medical conditions, even if these conditions are well managed.
- People who are morbidly obese
Anyone can get the flu (even healthy people), and serious problems from influenza can happen at any age, but some people are at higher risk of developing serious flu-related complications if they get sick. This includes people 65 years and older, people of any age with certain chronic medical conditions (such as asthma, diabetes, or heart disease), pregnant women, and young children.
How Flu Spreads:
Person to Person
People with flu can spread it to others up to about 6 feet away. Most experts think that flu viruses are spread mainly by droplets made when people with flu cough, sneeze or talk. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs. Less often, a person might also get flu by touching a surface or object that has flu virus on it and then touching their own mouth or nose.
(To avoid this, people should wash their hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub. Linens, eating utensils, and dishes belonging to those who are sick should not be shared without washing thoroughly first. Eating utensils can be washed either in a dishwasher or by hand with water and soap and do not need to be cleaned separately.)
The Flu Is Contagious
Most healthy adults may be able to infect others beginning 1 day before symptoms develop and up to 5 to 7 days after becoming sick. Children may pass the virus for longer than 7 days. Symptoms start 1 to 4 days after the virus enters the body. That means that you may be able to pass on the flu to someone else before you know you are sick, as well as while you are sick. Some persons can be infected with the flu virus but have no symptoms. During this time, those persons may still spread the
Cold Versus Flu: Questions & Answers
What is the difference between a cold and the flu?
The flu and the common cold are both respiratory illnesses but they are caused by different viruses. Because these two types of illnesses have similar flu-like symptoms, it can be difficult to tell the difference between them based on symptoms alone. In general, the flu is worse than the common cold, and symptoms such as fever, body aches, extreme tiredness, and dry cough are more common and intense. Colds are usually milder than the flu. People with colds are more likely to have a runny or stuffy nose. Colds generally do not result in serious health problems, such as pneumonia, bacterial infections, or hospitalizations.
How can you tell the difference between a cold and the flu?
Because colds and flu share many symptoms, it can be difficult (or even impossible) to tell the difference between them based on symptoms alone. Special tests that usually must be done within the first few days of illness can be carried out, when needed to tell if a person has the flu.
What are the symptoms of the flu versus the symptoms of a cold?
In general, the flu is worse than the common cold, and symptoms such as fever, body aches, extreme tiredness, and dry cough are more common and intense. Colds are usually milder than the flu. People with colds are more likely to have a runny or stuffy nose. Colds generally do not result in serious health problems, such as pneumonia, bacterial infections, or hospitalizations.virus to others.
Seven healthy ways to pass time when you’re home sick (Huffington Post):
+1) Listen to the radio. 95.1 is a good choice 🙂
- Watch a comedy. If you’re feeling well enough to watch a movie, make it a comedy. Research shows that laughing may actually boost your immune system.
- Take a steam. Turn your bathroom into a steam room by running a hot shower. If you’re too lightheaded to stand, sit on a chair or the closed toilet and breathe in the steam, which moistens your nasal passages and throw, and can help you relax.
- Stir up some homemade hot chocolate. Make the winter classic at home, and you can control what goes into the mix. You can keep sugar in check with unsweetened cocoa powder and cut back on fat by using skim milk – plus you can still reap the health benefits of chocolate, like a boost in heart health, a drop in blood pressure and lifted spirits. Plus it will help hydrate you, which is good no matter what you’re fighting.
- Enjoy homemade soup. Sipping soup, especially broth, is bound to feel good, while providing you with the nutrients you need to fight your infection. It’s also and easy way to eat healthfully without feeling weighed down. Making your own hearty soup cuts back on salt and also give you the chance to load up with healthy winter veggies.
- Play a board game. Exercise your brain! Depending on the objective, board games can test your powers of memory, logic, and problem solving.
- Take a nap. Sleep, sleep, sleep. Try to support your sleep schedule by timing caffeine intake so that it doesn’t interfere with your naps.
- Enjoy your time alone. If you find yourself repeatedly wishing for more hours in the day, take some time to kick back and relax. Being out sick is the perfect excuse to stay away from your e-mail and phone. What’s more, the CDC recommends you avoid contact with the people around you when you’re contagious.