Influenza (flu) is a viral infection of the nose, throat, windpipe, and bronchi that occurs every winter. The main symptoms are a runny nose, sore throat, and nagging cough. Usually there’s more muscle pain, headache, fever, and chills than colds usually cause.
Flu is caused by influenza viruses. Flu viruses change yearly, which is why people can get the flu every year. The virus is spread by sneezing, coughing, and hand contact. It spreads rapidly because the incubation period is only 24 to 36 hours and the virus is very contagious. Thus, the spread of flu is very difficult to prevent.
The treatment of influenza depends on your main symptoms and is no different from the treatment for other viral respiratory infections.
The fever lasts 2 to 3 days, the runny or stuffy nose 1 to 2 weeks, and the cough 2 to 3 weeks.
The influenza vaccine gives protection for 1 year. All healthy children and teens age 6 months to 18 years should get a flu shot. Those with chronic diseases (for example, asthma) need to come in for yearly influenza boosters. Pregnant teens are considered at high risk for complications. Anyone who wants to reduce their chances of getting the flu can get the flu shot. Talk with your healthcare provider or parents if you think you should have flu shots.
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