Influenza, commonly shorted to “flu,” is a contagious respiratory
illness caused by viruses. Flu appears most frequently in winter and early
spring. The flu virus attacks the body by spreading through the upper
and/or lower respiratory tract.
Is it a cold or the flu?
Although the symptoms can be similar, flu is much worse than a cold. You
feel flu symptoms soon and with greater intensity than colds. The chart
below can help you compare symptoms.
What if I get the flu?
If you get the flu, you may treat the symptoms with over-the-counter drugs
until you feel better. Get plenty of rest and drink a lot of fluids. Warm,
salt water gargles, throat sprays or lozenges help relieve a sore throat.
Acetaminophen, naproxen and ibuprofen help relieve aches and pains and
When should I call my doctor?
Call your doctor if you or your child has a high fever lasting more than
three days, breathing difficulty, chest pain, fainting, ear pain, vomiting,
abdominal pain, changes in mental state (confusion, disorientation), symptoms
lasting more than 10 days, or sinus pain.
If you have a chronic medical condition such as heart disease, asthma,
COPD, diabetes, or HIV/AIDS, call your doctor when the first flu symptoms appear.
What about antivirals?
Antiviral drugs can decrease the duration of the flu by one or two days.
They are the most effective when given within 48 hours of the onset of
illness, so you need to call your doctor as soon as you have flu symptoms.
They are usually given for about five to seven days.
Should I take antibiotics?
Antibiotics are medications that fight infections caused by bacteria. Chances
are that antibiotics will not help your flu symptoms because flu, colds,
and most sore throats and bronchitis are caused by viruses. In addition,
taking antibiotics when they are not needed increases your risk of getting
an antibioticresistant infection later.