Peak flu season is October through May. The flu, also known as influenza, is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses that infect the throat, nose, and sometimes the lungs. The flu can cause mild to severe illness, and sometimes even death. The best way to prevent the flu is by getting a flu vaccine each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Influenza can cause mild to severe illness and is different from a cold. The flu usually comes on suddenly and people often feel some or all of these symptoms:
- Fever or feeling feverish/chills
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Muscle or body aches
- Sore throat
- Fatigue (tiredness)
- Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in children than adults
The time from when a person is exposed and infected with flu to when symptoms begin is about 2 days, but can range from about 1 to 4 days.
Complications of flu can include bacterial pneumonia, sinus infections, ear infections, and worsening of chronic medical conditions, such as congestive heart failure, asthma, or diabetes.
If you show symptoms, see a medical provider as soon as possible. Your doctor can run a rapid flu test and if indicated, prescribe an antiviral medication proven to lessen the severity and duration of your illness. When taken promptly, antiviral drugs can reduce the time you are sick by 1 to 2 days and also prevent serious complications, such as pneumonia.
If you are experiencing flu-like symptoms, limit contact with other people and stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone except for necessities and to get medical care. Make sure to cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue, throw the used tissue away, and wash your hands.
How Does Influenza Spread?
Most experts believe that flu viruses spread mainly by tiny droplets made when people infected with the flu sneeze, cough, or talk. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby and nearby surfaces. A person might get the flu by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes.
You may be able to spread the viral infection to someone else before you know you are sick, as well as while you are sick. Keep in mind these periods of contagiousness:
- First 3 to 4 days after their illness begins
- Beginning 1 day before symptoms develop and up to 5 to 7 days after becoming sick
- Young children and people with weakened immune systems might be able to infect others for an even longer time
People at High Risk
Anyone, even healthy people, can get influenza. Serious complications can happen at any age, however some people are at high risk of developing serious flu-related complications if they get sick. This includes:
- Children younger than 5 years old, but especially children younger than 2 years old
- Adults 65 years of age and older
- Pregnant women (and women up to two weeks postpartum)
- Residents of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities
- People who have certain chronic medical conditions (e.g. asthma, diabetes, or heart disease)
The most important step in preventing flu is to get a flu vaccine each year. The vaccine helps reduce flu-related illnesses and the risk of serious complications that can result in hospitalization or even death. The CDC also recommends everyday preventive tips like staying away from people who are sick, covering coughs and sneezes, and frequent handwashing. This will help slow the spread of germs that cause respiratory illnesses.
Get Treatment Today!
If you are feeling unwell, schedule a visit or walk-in to an Advanced Urgent Care & Occupational Medicine location near you. With locations across the Denver metro area, we’re open 7 days a week.