Flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses that infect the nose, throat, and sometimes the lungs. It can cause mild to severe illness and can sometimes even lead to death. The best way to prevent flu is to get a flu shot every year.
The flu is different from having a cold. Flu usually comes on suddenly. Flu signs and symptoms can include feeling feverish or having a fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills, and fatigue.
Flu viruses are spread mainly by tiny droplets made when people with flu cough, sneeze, or talk. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby. A person may also get flu by touching a surface or an object on which droplets have landed, and then touching their own mouth, nose, or eyes.
Complications of the flu can include bacterial pneumonia, ear infections, sinus infections, and worsening of chronic medical conditions, such as diabetes, congestive heart failure, or asthma.
Most cases of the flu will resolve with supportive care such as bedrest, Tylenol, Vitamin C, and oral fluids. However, health care providers can also prescribe antiviral drugs such as Tamiflu to help patients get well sooner.
Submitted by Dr. Shelby Havens, APRN, DNP