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What is the flu?

  • Influenza, commonly called the flu, is a viral respiratory infection
  • There are a number of different strains of flu.
  • It is estimated that 10 – 20 % of Americans will contract the flu each year.
  • The typical flu season lasts from November to March.
  • The flu almost never causes symptoms in the stomach. When someone says (s)he has the stomach flu, it is not influenza.
  • Symptoms usually begin 1 – 4 days after you have become infected with the flu.
  • You can spread the flu before you even know you have it.
  • You continue to be contagious for 3 – 4 days after your symptoms begin.


  • Body aches
  • Chills
  • Dry cough
  • Fever (usually 102 – 104 F)
  • Headache
  • Sore throat
  • Stuffy nose


  • Most of the time people are diagnosed with influenza based on symptoms.
  • There is a laboratory test that can be done if it is necessary.


  • The flu vaccine that is available in the fall can help prevent or minimize an episode of the flu.
  • Support your immune system by eating healthy foods and getting enough rest.
  • Wash your hands frequently.
  • Avoid areas where there are people who are ill. Don’t go hang out with a group of friends who all have the flu.)


  • Rest
  • Take over the counter medicines like Tylenol or Advil to help ease your discomfort.
  • Drink plenty of fluids.
  • There are some anti-viral medicines that can be taken to promote your recovery. Antibiotics will not be helpful in recovering from the flu.

Potential Complications

  • Bronchitis
  • Pneumonia

Is it a cold or the flu?

Symptoms Cold Flu
Fever Mild Usually high,102–104; lasts 3–4 days
Headache Rare Prominent
Body aches Mild Often Severe
Fatigue, weakness Mild Usual, lasts up to 2 – 3 weeks
Extreme exhaustion Never Prominent early
Stuffy nose Common Occasional
Sneezing Usual Occasional
Sore Throat Common Occasional
Chest discomfort, cough Mild to moderate, hacking cough Common, often severe

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Last Updated 8/15/18

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