What is the Flu?
The flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by the Influenza virus. This virus can be mild or severe, potentially leading to hospitalization or even death. Flu season in the U.S. extends from the fall through the winter months – typically beginning in October and lasting as late as May.
Flu symptoms can persist up to 10 days. The CDC recommends you do not return to work or public events until you have been without a fever for at least 24 hours.
Signs and Symptoms
- Fever and/or chills
- Sore throat
- Body aches
- Some people report vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in children
Spreading the Flu
Most experts believe that flu viruses mainly spread by tiny droplets produced when infected people cough, sneeze, or talk. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people nearby. Less often, a person can catch the flu by touching a surface or object that is contaminated with the virus and then touching their own mouth, nose, or eyes.
What to Do if You Become Sick with the Flu
If you suspect the flu, you should be seen by your healthcare professional for a proper diagnosis. Although the flu is a virus and cannot be treated with antibiotics, your provider may recommend antiviral medication. This is most effective for flu when taken within the first two days of illness. Though antiviral medication does not eliminate the virus altogether, it may lessen the viral load – shortening the length of illness by a few days and alleviating symptoms. Antivirals may also help prevent the flu from developing into a more serious illness such as pneumonia.
Increased rest and fluids, as well as over-the-counter medications like Tylenol and ibuprofen, are key to treating symptoms.
The primary step in flu prevention is to get a flu vaccine each year. The flu vaccine has been shown to reduce flu-related illnesses as well as the risk of serious complications that can result in hospitalization or even death. The CDC also recommends everyday preventive actions – including keeping your distance from people who are sick, covering coughs and sneezes, and frequent hand washing. This will help slow the spread of germs that cause the flu and other respiratory (nose, throat, and lungs) illnesses.
Tower Health Urgent Care offers walk-in care for colds and flu.
Flu shots available at all 19 locations – $35. Free with Capital Blue Cross Blue Shield (BCBS) and Medicare insurances.
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