Influenza, commonly known as “the flu,” is a contagious, respiratory infection caused by the influenza virus that affects the nose, throat, airways, and lungs. Virus types include A (Novel A, H1N1), B and C. Types A and B normally cause seasonal outbreaks almost every year typically beginning in November and ending in April.

Symptoms

Symptoms usually appear one to four days after exposure and characterized by a sudden onset of:

  • High fever greater than 100°F (usually lasting three to four days)
  • Severe body aches and headaches
  • Immediate and extreme exhaustion, fatigue, and overall weakness
  • Chest discomfort and a rough, dry cough, and sometimes a runny/stuffy nose, sneezing, and sore throat can also be experienced with the flu

The flu typically causes intense symptoms for one to three days, however the associated fever may last up to five days and cough and weakness can last for two to three weeks.

How is the flu spread?

The flu is spread when an infected person coughs or sneezes and expels the virus in the form of droplets into the air and others inhale the virus, either by proximity or by touching a contaminated object and then touching their face.

Treatment

Antibiotics have no effect on the flu. It is important to rest so that your immune system can kill the aggressive virus. Drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration from fever and coughing. Some medications can help relieve symptoms:

  • Acetaminophen such as Tylenol®, Paracetamol®, ibuprofen (only take one medicine at a time containing acetaminophen)
  • Sudafed® and Mucinex®  for runny nose/congestion
  • Afrin® nasal spray (use only for 3-4 days)
  • Saline nasal sprays; and sinus rinses/neti pot offers temporary relief
  • Over the counter cough syrups, such as Delsym®
  • Throat lozenges
  • Medicinal balms such as Vicks Vaporum®
  • Salt water gargles
  • Megadosing of vitamins, Airborne®, and other supplements have not been proven to be effective in preventing or treating the flu