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Everything you need to know about the flu


General Flu Frequently Asked Questions

Everything you need to know about the flu

In this article, we cover frequently asked questions about the flu. We hope to help you better understand what the flu is, how you can get the flu, what are some flu symptoms, what complications can occur from having the flu to name a few. Being knowledgeable and prepared will help you in the road of well-being during this flu season.
Should you want to jump into learning how to protect or recover from the flu, read more. Or maybe you are contemplating or want to know more about flu shots? Then follow this link.

What is flu?

Influenza or flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses that infect the nose, throat and lungs. The flu is not a cold.

When is the flu season?

You can get flu any time of the year. Th flu season is when people get the most flu infections. The flu season runs usually from October through May. It picks in December through February when the weather is cold.

What types of flu viruses affect people?

There are 4 types of influenza viruses: Type A, B, C and D.  Influenza A and B are the most common influenza viruses causing the seasonal epidemics of disease almost every winter in United States. Influenza C infections cause a mild respiratory illness and are not considered epidemics. Influenza D viruses are not known to infect people.

What is a difference between flu and cold?

Flu and the cold are both respiratory illnesses that have similar symptoms. These are a few examples of how they differ:

  • They are caused by different viruses
  • Usually flu symptoms are more intense than the cold
  • Colds are more often associated with runny or stuffy nose
  • It is more likely to have serious health implication with a flu than with a cold

Testing for the flu

Do I need a test to determine if I have the flu?

Not necessarily, because the results do not usually change how you are treated when you have flu-like symptoms. However, the health care provider may decide to perform a flu test if the diagnosis of flu can help them to make better decisions about your care (i.e. if you are pregnant or have a weaken immune system condition).

What are some tests to confirm the flu?

By testing the throat, sputum, or nose for the influenza virus it can be determine if one has it. A health care provider will swipe the inside of your nose or the back of your throat with a swab and send it for testing. The most common tests are called “rapid influenza diagnostic tests” and “rapid molecular assays” tests. However, even if the test is negative, there is still possibility that you may have the flu so a more accurate test might be needed that must be performed in specialized laboratories.

Flu Complications

What are some examples of flu complications?

  • Sinus and ear infections are examples of moderate complications from the flu
  • Pneumonia, inflammation of the heart or brain are serious flu complications

Who is at a higher risk of developing serious flu-related complications?

  • Children younger than 2 years old
  • Adults 65 and older
  • Pregnant women
  • People who have medical conditions. Example are:
    • Asthma
    • Heart disease
    • Kidney disorders
    • Liver disorders
    • Weaken immune system (i.e. AIDS, HIV, cancer)

Flu Transmission

How does flu spread?

  • Direct transmission: Flu viruses might spread by droplets made when someone with flu coughs, sneezes or talks. When those droplets land in the mouth or nose of someone else, that person is exposed to the flu.
  • Through touching (hand-to-eye, hand-to-nose, hand-to-mouth) transmission: Some droplets may land to surface, on cloths, and items. If those things are touched by someone and then he/she touches his/her mouth, eyes or nose, that person is being exposed to the flu.
  • Airborne route – when someone inhales the aerosols produced by an infected person

Can the flu transfer through air?

Yes, through a cough or a sneeze the virus can be transferred through air to another person. The distance traveled is short, though.

How long is a person contagious with the flu?

People with flu are most contagious in the first 3-4 days. People can infect other people anyway from 1 day before symptoms develop to 7 days after becoming sick.

How long can a flu virus survive?

Influenza can persist outside of the human body ranging from 5 minutes (on the skin) to 17 days (on money)


What are flu symptoms?

Flu symptoms might be:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffed nose
  • Body aches
  • Headache
  • Chills
  • Feeling tired/fatigue
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea

When do flu symptoms begin?

Flu symptoms occur suddenly. They usually begin about 2 days after influenza virus exposure.

How long does flu symptoms last?

Usually the flu symptoms last for a week or two. Severe symptoms usually subside in 3-5 days, and some other symptoms like coughing and fatigue lingering for 14 days. If complications occur, then symptoms might last for much longer.

What next?

Learn more on how to protect or recover from the flu. We also have a dedicated article about flu shots  and how to properly wash hands as these are one of the best defenses against the flu.

* Information and statements made by be Healthy be Happy are for education purposes only and are not intended to replace the advice of your doctor. be Healthy be Happy does not provide medical advice, prescribe, or diagnose illness. The views and nutritional advice expressed by be Healthy be Happy are not to replace conventional medical service. Any choices and decisions you are making are at your own risk. If you have a medical condition or health concern, contact your physician.

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