Influenza, commonly known as flu, is an infection that affects respiratory system including nose, throat and lungs. It is caused by virus.
There are actually three kinds of influenza. Type A is the most common form. Together with type B, it causes outbreaks in the winter. In the US, flu season continues from November to April, but duration may vary from year to year.
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Type C of flu causes mild symptoms and doesn't take part in seasonal outbreaks.
We often say that we have the flu, even if we actually experience common cold.
Symptoms of these two viral infections may look really similar, but the flu is felt much worse. It starts suddenly, causing high fever (110.4F and over), chills, runny nose and sore throat. People often complain of extreme fatigue, headache and muscle aching.
It takes from one to four days for the virus to incubate in person's body. However people can spread infection one day before the first symptoms appear. They usually remain infectious for seven to ten days.
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In normal cases, symptoms resolve within one or two weeks.
However sometimes those, who have weak immune system (children under the age of 5, older adults, pregnant women and individuals with chronic disorders, HIV infection) may develop serious complications like pneumonia, otitis and heart problems.
If you are in high-risk group, it's worth contacting with your doctor, when feel ill.
For others, the best treatment is having a rest and drinking plenty of fluids. To decrease high fever and alleviate discomfort, over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medicines may appear helpful.
In some situations, doctor may recommend you antiviral medications, which can shorten your illness and relieve symptoms. Oseltamivir and zanamivir work good, if taken within two days of the beginning of the symptoms.
These medicines were found to be effective in preventing flu for people, who have already had contact with infected person.
The most effective preventive option, known for today, is flu vaccination. It is designed to protect you from several types of influenza virus.
Components (antibodies) of flu viruses changes every year. Therefore, you need to get new vaccination every year to avoid infection.
It's also important to remember that flu vaccines start to act only after two weeks from getting injection. So, the earlier you get vaccine, the higher protection you'll get.
Specialists advise against vaccination for babies under 6 months and people who were allergic to previous shots.
Despite its high efficacy, flu vaccine can't provide 100% protection. To minimize your risks for disease, try to avoid crowds, especially during peak of flu outbreak.
Wash your hands thoroughly, using soaps or alcohol-contained hand sanitizer.
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When you sneeze or cough, don't forget to cover your face. Remember that influenza is highly contagious, and it's extremely important to improve your immune system and do everything to prevent spreading infection.
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