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    Head & Neck Surgery

    The Brooklyn Hospital Center's Division of Head and Neck Surgery manages the diagnosis and surgical treatment of benign and malignant tumors of the head and neck. Staffed by a team of highly capable sur ...

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Flu

Definition

The flu is an infection of the nose, throat, and lungs. It spreads easily.

This article discusses influenza types A and B. Another type of the flu is the swine flu (H1N1).

Alternative Names

Influenza A; Influenza B

Causes

The flu is caused by an influenza virus.

Most people get the flu when they breathe in tiny droplets from coughs or sneezes of someone who has the flu. You can also catch the flu if you touch something with the virus on it, and then touch your mouth, nose, or eyes.

People often confuse colds and flu. They are different. But, you might have some of the same symptoms. Most people get a cold several times each year. Most people get the flu only once every few years.

Sometimes, you can get a virus that makes you throw up or have diarrhea. Some people call this the "stomach flu." This is a misleading name because this virus is not the actual flu. The flu mostly affects your nose, throat, and lungs.

Symptoms

Flu symptoms will often start quickly. You can start to feel sick about 1-7 days after you come in contact with the virus. Most of the time symptoms appear in 2-3 days.

The flu spreads easily. It can affect a large group of people in a very short amount of time. For example, students and workers get sick within 2 or 3 weeks of the flu's arrival in a school or workplace.

The first symptom is a fever between 102 and 106 °F. An adult usually has a lower fever than a child.

Other common symptoms include:

The fever and aches and pains begin to go away on days 2 through 4. But new symptoms occur, including:

Most symptoms go away in 4-7 days. The cough and tired feeling may last for weeks. Sometimes, the fever comes back.

Some people may not feel like eating.

The flu can make asthma, breathing problems, and other long-term illnesses worse.

Exams and Tests

Most people do not need to see a health care provider when they have flu symptoms. This is because most people are not at risk for a severe case of the flu.

If you are very sick with the flu, you may want to see your health care provider. People who are at high risk for flu complications may also want to see a health care provider if they get the flu.

When many people in an area have flu, a health care provider can make a diagnosis after hearing about your symptoms. No further testing is needed.

There is a test to detect the flu. It is done by swabbing the nose or throat. Most of the time, test results are available very fast. The test can help your health care provider decide the best treatment.

Treatment

HOME CARE

Acetaminophen (Tylenol) and ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) help lower fever. Sometimes health care providers suggest you use both types of medicine. Do NOT use aspirin.

A fever does not need to come all the way down to normal. Most people feel better when the temperature drops by 1 degree.

Over-the-counter cold medicines may make some of your symptoms better. Cough drops or throat sprays will help with your sore throat.

You will need a lot of rest. Drink plenty of liquids. Do not smoke or drink alcohol.

ANTIVIRAL DRUGS

Most people with milder symptoms feel better in 3-4 days. They do not need to see a health care provider or take antiviral medications.

Health care providers may give antiviral drugs to people who get very sick with the flu. You may need these medicines if you are more likely to have flu complications.

These medicines may shorten the time you have symptoms by about 1 day. They work better if you start taking them within 2 days of your first symptoms.

Children at risk of a severe case of the flu may also need these medicines.

Outlook (Prognosis)

Millions of people in the United States get the flu each year. Most get better within a week or two.

But thousands of people with the flu develop pneumonia or a brain infection. They need to stay in the hospital. About 36,000 people in the U.S. die each year of problems from the flu.

Anyone at any age can have serious complications from the flu. Those at highest risk include:

Possible Complications

Complications may include:

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call your health care provider if you get the flu and think you are at risk for having complications.

Also call your health care provider if your flu symptoms are very bad and self-treatment is not working.

Prevention

You can take steps to avoid catching or spreading the flu. The best step is to get a flu vaccine.

If you have the flu:

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that everyone 6 months and older should receive the influenza vaccine.

References

Grohskopf LA, Shay DK, Shimabukuro TT, et al; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Prevention and control of seasonal influenza with vaccines: Recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) – United States, 2013-2014. MMWR Recomm Rep. 2013 Sep 20; 62(RRO7);1-43.

Hayden FG. Influenza. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 372.

Jefferson T, Jones M, Doshi P, Del Mar C. Neuraminidase inhibitors for preventing and treating influenza in healthy adults: systematic review and meta-analysis. BMJ. 2009 Dec 8; 339:b5106.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. What you should know for the 2013-2014 influenza season. January 8, 2014.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Seasonal influenza: flu basics. September 12, 2013.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.What you should know about flu antiviral drugs. September 17, 2013.



Review Date: 8/29/2013
Reviewed By: Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director and Director of Didactic Curriculum, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, Department of Family Medicine, UW Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Washington. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Bethanne Black, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
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    The Surgical Division of Podiatry offers quality, compassionate health care and state-of-the-art therapies to treat a wide range of foot and ankle disorders. Conditions Treated ingrown toenails ankle sprains ...

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    Pediatric Emergency Medicine Physician The Brooklyn Hospital Center 121 DeKalb Avenue Brooklyn NY 11201 Specialty:  Pediatric Emergency Medicine Medical School:  University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine Internship:  Jackson Memorial Hospital Residenc ...

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    Saturday in the Park! Annual health fair in Fort Greene Park helps us keep Brooklyn healthy.

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    Saturday In The Park-- TBHC Health Fair Emphasizes Wellness and Prevention

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    Building a Better Health Care Delivery System for Brooklyn Communities

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    New Report on Health Needs, Gaps and Barriers to Care in North and Central Brooklyn Released in Conjunction with Proposed Redesign of Brooklyn’s Health Care System

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