Influenza, commonly known as “the flu,” is caused by a virus, which infects the respiratory tract. The flu is spread from person to person by direct contact or through virus-infected droplets coughed or sneezed in the air. Most people who get the flu recover completely in one to two weeks, but some develop serious and potentially life-threatening illnesses, such as pneumonia, especially elderly people.

The flu sometimes develops into bacterial pneumonia, ear infection, sinus infection, dehydration and worsening of chronic medical conditions. Very young children and the elderly are more susceptible to complications of the flu than the general population. About 36,000 people die each year from the flu.

Keep in mind the flu usually lasts no more than a week or two and is best cured by getting rest, good nutrition and plenty of fluids. Although, it's best if you prevent getting the flu by recieving a flu vaccine.

Signs and symptoms of the flu may include:

  • High fever (usually 100 degrees F to 103 degrees F in adults and often higher in children)
  • Chills
  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle aches
  • Dizziness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Dry cough
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Weakness
  • Ear infection
  • Diarrhea

Call your doctor if there are signs of dehydration, seizures, earache, a cough that produces discolored mucus or difficulty breathing.

In the case of children who have the flu, call the doctor if the child:

  • Has symptoms that are serious or get worse  — or starts to get better and suddenly gets worse.
  • Has a temperature greater than 102 degrees F for more than a few days.

Children with chronic conditions, such as severe asthma or cystic fibrosis, may require hospitalization.

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Infections & Infectious Diseases Know When to Go Public Education