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What is Influenza (also called Flu)?

The flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses. It can cause mild to severe illness, and at times can lead to death. The best way to prevent the flu is by getting a flu vaccination each fall.

Every year in the United States, on average:

  • 5% to 20% of the population gets the flu;
  • more than 200,000 people are hospitalized from flu complications, and;
  • about 36,000 people die from flu.

Some people, such as older people, young children, and people with certain health conditions, are at high risk for serious flu complications.

Symptoms of Flu

Symptoms of flu include:

  • fever (usually high)
  • headache
  • extreme tiredness
  • dry cough
  • sore throat
  • runny or stuffy nose
  • muscle aches
  • Stomach symptoms, such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, also can occur but are more common in children than adults


Complications of Flu

Complications of flu can include bacterial pneumonia, ear infections, sinus infections, dehydration, and worsening of chronic medical conditions, such as congestive heart failure, asthma, or diabetes.


When do You Call Your Doctor for the Flu

A normal healthy adult person can beat the flu over the course of 5-7 days but fatigue is known to last much longer after the virus has left your system. Cough, fatigue, fever runny nose are all common symptoms that come along with the flu. These normal symptoms are nothing to contact your doctor about. A lot of sleep, drinking plenty of liquids, water and orange juice and sweating out the flu are ways the average adult can handle the flu on their own.

Flu complications occur more in infants, older adults or people who have severe chronic health problems such as heart problems, bronchitis, or the HIV disease AIDS which is known to weaken the immune system. The same signs of the flu virus advancing from normal to something of an emergency are the same in adults of all ages and in children. You just have to look out for them. The earlier you are aware or identify the signs the faster you can contact your doctor so he can properly help you.

If you are monitoring your sickness, or your child's sickness, you'll have to look for a sign of bacterial infection. You will know that you or your child have a bacterial infection if the mucus from your nose stops coming out clear and is a different color (colors may vary depending upon how bad the infection is). Since the flu attacks your lungs, it puts an influx amount of mucus, which is the cause of coughing. The mucus in your lungs is supposed to be clear, but if it is a different color it means bacteria has now entered your lungs and is one of the reasons why the flu can potentially become deadly.

Fever and fatigue are common in the flu, however the ability to stand on your own, as simple as it sounds, is also a sign of your flu getting worse. It means you are passed the point of simple fatigue and your immune system is not properly fighting off the disease. Severe headache and dizziness may accompany the advanced fatigue as well. Being able to keep the liquids you consume in your body is also a very significant sign of your flu getting worse. Vomiting, even a little bit, suggests that your bacterial infection has reached your digestive system. If you are vomiting the liquids you need to keep in your body then your body doesn't have any help to fight the disease is call for you to consult your doctor.

Extreme coughing, chest pains and sore throat development are all reasons to contact your doctor. Contacting your doctor when your child is showing a sign of these is vital to surviving the flu since your child's immune system isn't as strong as yours. Your child can easily develop these complications sooner than you can because their immune systems aren't as strong as yours is. When it comes to your child begin to look for these signs on the fourth day going forward and for you, the adult on the third day of having the flu.

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Who Should Get Vaccinated?

In general, anyone who wants to reduce their chances of getting the flu can get vaccinated. However, certain people should get vaccinated each year either because they are at high risk of having serious flu-related complications or because they live with or care for high risk persons. During flu seasons when vaccine supplies are limited or delayed, ACIP makes recommendations regarding priority groups for vaccination.

People who should get vaccinated each year are:

1. People at high risk for complications from the flu, including:

  • Children aged 6–59 months of age,
  • Pregnant women,
  • People 50 years of age and older,
  • People of any age with certain chronic medical conditions, and
  • People who live in nursing homes and other long term care facilities.

2. People who live with or care for those at high risk for complications from flu, including:

  • Household contacts of persons at high risk for complications from the flu (see above)
  • Household contacts and out of home caregivers of children less than 6 months of age (these children are too young to be vaccinated)
  • Health care workers.

3. Anyone who wants to decrease their risk of influenza.


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