The flu, which is more formally called influenza, is an infection caused by the influenza virus. The flu can result in a fever, body aches, chills, coughing, headaches, sinus problems, and ear aches. The influenza virus works by affecting the respiratory system. Even if you have had the flu shot in the past, it needs to be repeated every year because the flu virus mutates and therefore changes every year.
How the Flu is Spread
The flu virus is extremely contagious and easy to spread. It can be spread through the air when someone speaks, coughs or sneezes. This is why it is so important that someone with the flu avoid contact with others, and always close their mouth when coughing or sneezing. It can also be spread when something they touch is touched by someone else, though this is more uncommon. Someone with the flu virus may be contagious a day before they have symptoms and know they have it, up to about a week after first showing flu symptoms.
Flu Signs and Symptoms
There are some symptoms you should be aware of that start between 1 and 4 days after being exposed to the influenza virus. The most common symptoms include a headache, sore throat, fever and chills, stuffy nose, muscle aches, and a dry cough. You typically have a poor appetite, extreme fatigue or exhaustion, and feel entire body aches and weakness. With the flu, you can also have nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain.
How to Treat the Flu
In most cases, home treatment is all you need to help get over the flu. By drinking plenty of fluids and getting sufficient rest, the flu will be gone in a matter of days or possible over a week. Be sure when drinking fluids it is water and non-caffeinated drinks, avoiding alcohol, coffee, or very sugary drinks. Stay home from work or school until the fever has subsided. However there are some cases where you should seek medical attention. If the flu is getting worse instead of better, you have a sinus infection or trouble breathing, or you have a medical condition such as lung disease, asthma, heart problems, or diabetes, you should get medical attention. If your temperature is above 104 degrees Fahrenheit it is also recommended that you go to the emergency room to help reduce your fever and replenish your fluids in case you’re dehydrated.