What is influenza?
Influenza (the flu) is an infection caused by the influenza virus. The flu is easily spread when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or has close contact with others. You may be able to spread the flu to others for 1 week or longer after signs or symptoms appear.
What increases my risk for the flu?
- Living with or caring for someone who has the flu
- Living in a nursing home or long-term care facility
- Living in close quarters with others
- Conditions, such as diabetes, cancer, heart disease, or lung disease
- Age older than 50 years
- A weak immune system caused by HIV, AIDS, an organ transplant, or another condition
- Traveling to places where other people have the flu
What are the signs and symptoms of the flu?
- Fever and chills
- Headaches, body aches, and muscle or joint pain
- Cough, runny nose, and sore throat
- Loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea
- Trouble breathing
How is the flu diagnosed?
Your healthcare provider will examine you and ask if you have other health conditions. Tell him if you have been around sick people or traveled recently. Tell your healthcare provider if you are pregnant. A sample of fluid may be collected from your nose or throat to be tested for the flu virus.
How is the flu treated?
Most people get better within a week. You may need any of the following:
- Acetaminophen decreases pain and fever. It is available without a doctor's order. Ask how much to take and how often to take it. Follow directions. Acetaminophen can cause liver damage if not taken correctly.
- NSAIDs help decrease swelling and pain or fever. This medicine is available with or without a doctor's order. NSAIDs can cause stomach bleeding or kidney problems in certain people. If you take blood thinner medicine, always ask your healthcare provider if NSAIDs are safe for you. Always read the medicine label and follow directions.
- Antivirals help fight a viral infection.
How can I manage my symptoms?
- Rest as much as you can to help you recover.
- Drink liquids as directed to help prevent dehydration. Ask how much liquid to drink each day and which liquids are best for you.
How can I help prevent the spread of the flu?
- Wash your hands often. Use soap and water. Wash your hands after you use the bathroom, change a child's diapers, or sneeze. Wash your hands before you prepare or eat food. Use gel hand cleanser when there is no soap and water available. Do not touch your eyes, nose, or mouth unless you have washed your hands first.
- Cover your mouth when you sneeze or cough. Cough into a tissue or the bend of your arm.
- Clean shared items with a germ-killing cleaner. Clean table surfaces, doorknobs, and light switches. Do not share towels, silverware, and dishes with people who are sick. Wash bed sheets, towels, silverware, and dishes with soap and water.
- Wear a mask over your mouth and nose if you are sick or are near anyone who is sick.
- Stay away from others if you are sick.
- Influenza vaccine helps prevent influenza (flu). Everyone older than 6 months should get a yearly influenza vaccine. Get the vaccine as soon as it is available, usually in October or November each year.
Call 911 for any of the following:
- You have trouble breathing, and your lips look purple or blue.
- You have a seizure.
- You have new pain or pressure in your chest.
When should I seek immediate care?
- You are dizzy, or you are urinating less or not at all.
- You have a headache with a stiff neck, and you feel tired or confused.
- Your symptoms, such as shortness of breath, vomiting, or diarrhea, get worse.
- Your symptoms, such as fever and coughing, seem to get better, but then get worse.
When should I contact my healthcare provider?
- You have new muscle pain or weakness.
- You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.
Care AgreementYou have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.
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