Introduction to the Flu

Welcome to the first of a series of installments about the flu! Unlike some of the diseases and conditions we talk about here on the blog, the flu is something we’ve all experienced. The flu is the sickness that causes kids to miss school, adults to miss work, and might even entail a trip to the doctor’s office.

What is the flu?

The term “flu” is an abbreviation for “influenza.” Influenza is respiratory sickness caused by viruses. There are many different strains of the influenza virus, and these viruses infect your nose, throat, and lungs.

What are the symptoms of the flu?

  • fever (over 100 F)
  • body ache
  • tiredness
  • chills
  • sweats
  • dry cough
  • headache
  • fatigue
  • cough
  • sore throat
  • congestion
  • runny or stuffy nose

How is the flu spread?

The flu is spread from person to person; more specifically, the flu virus is spread through droplets in the air that are released when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or talks. Another person can inhale these droplets or they can enter the body when you touch a surface or object that has the droplets on them and subsequently transfer those germs to your eyes, nose, or mouth.

Have you ever been in a situation in a group setting such as an office or a classroom where one day, one person gets the flu and shortly afterwards, more and more people start coughing or sneezing and end up getting the flu? This domino effect occurs because the flu is highly contagious.

What is the flu incubation period?

The flu “incubation period” refers to the period its takes for you to develop the flu and exhibit symptoms after being exposed to someone that has the flu. On average, the flu incubation period is between 1 – 4 days.

How is the flu different than a cold?

Different viruses cause influenza and the common cold. Although the symptoms may be similar, the symptoms of the flu are usually more intense and magnified. If you have a runny or stuffy nose, these symptoms are typically indicative of the cold rather than the flu. Also, you may develop the flu suddenly, with symptoms appearing very quickly, whereas the development of a cold is much slower.

What should I do if I have the flu?

Stay home! This is the best way to protect others from getting the flu and allows your body to recover. Make sure to get lots of rest and drink plenty of fluids to re-hydrate your body!  Also, don’t forget to wash your hands regularly, especially before eating. There are also over-the-counter medications available that you could take.