Influenza, or flu, is a respiratory illness with mild to severe symptoms. Flu can cause serious complications for adults older than 65, children younger than 2, pregnant women and people with certain medical conditions. Flu is different from a cold. Many symptoms are similar, but flu comes on suddenly with more severe symptoms.

Seasonal flu viruses are most common in fall and winter. Flu season often begins in October and can last as late as May. Getting a flu shot each year is the best prevention.

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What causes flu?

Flu is caused by influenza viruses. Flu is contagious and spreads through coughs and sneezes, up to six feet away.

What are symptoms of flu?

Flu lasts one to two weeks. The symptoms include:

  • Fatigue, or tiredness
  • Headache
  • Fever, though not always
  • Cough and sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Chills
  • Muscle aches
  • Stomach problems such as pain, nausea and diarrhea

Influenza is generally mild, but severe cases can be deadly.

Go to the ER if you or your child experiences any of these symptoms:

  • Trouble breathing
  • Severe dehydration
  • Bluish skin
  • Trouble waking up
  • Dizziness or fainting
  • Confusion
  • Severe vomiting
  • Fever with rash
  • Chest pain

How is flu treated?

Prescription antiviral drugs can shorten the duration of the flu. You can treat symptoms with over-the-counter medications. Consult a healthcare provider for recommendations.

A virus has to run its course, but you can ease symptoms and keep others from getting sick if you:

  • Drink lots of fluids
  • Get plenty of rest
  • Wash your hands frequently
  • Cover your mouth and nose when you cough

A yearly flu vaccine is recommended for anyone 6 months or older. Consult a healthcare provider to discuss what’s best for you.

Consult a healthcare provider if you think you or your child may have the flu. Visit a CareNow® urgent care clinic for diagnosis and treatment or to get a flu shot.

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