What is Flu? How to avoid getting the dreaded flu?

What Is the Flu?

The flu, more scientifically known as influenza, is a highly contagious respiratory infection caused by influenza viruses. The influenza virus usually enters the body through mucus membranes in the mouth, nose, or eyes.

Flu Virus

Flu Virus

When a person with the flu coughs or sneezes, the virus then becomes airborne and can be inhaled by anyone nearby. You can also get the flu if you’ve touched a contaminated surface like a telephone or a doorknob and then touch your nose or mouth. Of course, the risk of infection is greater in highly populated areas like schools, buses, and crowded urban settings.

Who is at risk?

In most communities, school-age children are the first age group to get the flu. They then carry the virus home and to after-school activities where they interact with other kids. The flu virus is usually prominent from October through May, the time of year typically known as “flu season.”Older adults, young children, and people with specific health conditions are at higher risk for serious flu complications. On average annually in the US: 5% to 20% of the population gets the flu, over 200,000 people are hospitalized from flu complications, and about 23,600 people die from flu-related causes. Read more about the impact of the flu.

Is It a Cold or the Flu?

The cold and flu are both respiratory illnesses, but they are caused by different types of viruses with different symptoms. Use this chart to learn the difference between the two.

Signs and Symptoms Influenza Cold
Symptom onset Abrupt Gradual
Fever Usual; lasts 3-4 days Rare
Aches Usual; often severe Slight
Chills Fairly common Uncommon
Fatigue, weakness Usual Sometimes
Sneezing Sometimes Common
Stuffy nose Sometimes Common
Sore throat Sometimes Common
Chest discomfort, cough Common; can be severe Mild to moderate; hacking cough
Headache Common Rare

Types of Flu

There are 3 types of flu viruses. Type A viruses are found in many kinds of animals, including ducks, chickens, pigs, and also humans. The Type B virus widely circulates in humans. Type C has been found in humans, pigs, and dogs, and causes mild respiratory infections, but does not spark epidemics.

Influenza virus is one of the most changeable of viruses. Changes may be small and continuous or large and abrupt.

  • Influenza Type A is divided into subtypes that can be found worldwide and include H1N1, H1N2, and H3N2 viruses.
  • Influenza Type B outbreaks can also cause epidemics, but the illness it produces is usually milder than Type A.
  • Influenza Type C flu viruses are not thought to cause a large epidemic and generally cause only mild respiratory infections.

Flu viruses are constantly changing. A global flu pandemic (worldwide outbreak) can happen if 3 conditions are met:

  • A new subtype of Type A virus is introduced into the human population.
  • The virus causes serious illness in humans.
  • The virus can spread easily from person to person in a sustained manner.

Definition

Influenza is a viral infection that attacks your respiratory system — your nose, throat and lungs. Influenza, commonly called the flu, is not the same as the stomach “flu” viruses that cause diarrhea and vomiting.

Influenza and its complications can be deadly. People at higher risk of developing flu complications include:

  • Young children
  • Older adults
  • Pregnant women
  • People with weakened immune systems
  • People who have chronic illnesses

Your best defense against influenza is to receive an annual vaccination.

Symptoms

influenza virus - bird flu and swine flu

influenza virus – bird flu and swine flu

Initially, the flu may seem like a common cold with a runny nose, sneezing and sore throat. But colds usually develop slowly, whereas the flu tends to come on suddenly. And although a cold can be a nuisance, you usually feel much worse with the flu.

Common signs and symptoms of the flu include:

  • Fever over 100 F (38 C)
  • Aching muscles, especially in your back, arms and legs
  • Chills and sweats
  • Headache
  • Dry cough
  • Fatigue and weakness
  • Nasal congestion

When to see a doctor

If you have flu symptoms and are at risk of complications, see your doctor right away. Taking antiviral drugs within the first 48 hours after you first notice symptoms may reduce the length of your illness and help prevent more-serious problems.

Causes

Flu viruses travel through the air in droplets when someone with the infection coughs, sneezes or talks. You can inhale the droplets directly, or you can pick up the germs from an object — such as a telephone or computer keyboard — and then transfer them to your eyes, nose or mouth.

Influenza viruses are constantly changing, with new strains appearing regularly. If you’ve had influenza in the past, your body has already made antibodies to fight that particular strain of the virus. If future influenza viruses are similar to what you had before, either by having the disease or by vaccination, those antibodies may prevent infection or lessen its severity.

But antibodies against flu viruses you’ve encountered in the past can’t protect you from new influenza subtypes that are very different immunologically from what you had before. Four such different (novel) virus subtypes have appeared in humans since the global epidemic (pandemic) of 1918, which killed tens of millions of people.

Risk factors

Factors that may increase your risk of developing influenza or its complications include:

  • Age. Seasonal influenza tends to target young children and people over 65. The pandemic H1N1 virus that surfaced in 2009, however, appeared to be most common in teenagers and young adults.
  • Occupation. Health care workers and child care personnel are more likely to have close contact with people infected with influenza.
  • Living conditions. People who live in facilities along with many other residents, such as nursing homes or military barracks, are more likely to develop influenza.
  • Weakened immune system. Cancer treatments, anti-rejection drugs, corticosteroids and HIV/AIDS can weaken your immune system. This can make it easier for you to catch influenza and may also increase your risk of developing complications.
  • Chronic illnesses. Chronic conditions, such as asthma, diabetes or heart problems, may increase your risk of influenza complications.
  • Pregnancy. Pregnant women are more likely to develop influenza complications, particularly in the second and third trimesters.

Complications

If you’re young and healthy, seasonal influenza usually isn’t serious. Although you may feel miserable while you have it, the flu usually goes away with no lasting effects. But high-risk children and adults may develop complications such as:

  • Pneumonia
  • Bronchitis
  • Sinus infections
  • Ear infections

Pneumonia is the most common and most serious. For older adults and people with a chronic illness, pneumonia can be deadly. The best protection is vaccination against both pneumococcal pneumonia and influenza.

Treatments and drugs

Usually, you’ll need nothing more than bed rest and plenty of fluids to treat the flu. But in some cases, your doctor may prescribe an antiviral medication, such as oseltamivir (Tamiflu) or zanamivir (Relenza). If taken soon after you notice symptoms, these drugs may shorten your illness by a day or so and help prevent serious complications.

Oseltamivir is an oral medication. Zanamivir is inhaled through a device similar to an asthma inhaler and shouldn’t be used by anyone with respiratory problems, such as asthma and lung disease. Antiviral side effects may include nausea and vomiting. Oseltamivir has also been associated with delirium and self-harm behaviors in teenagers.

Some strains of influenza have become resistant to oseltamivir and to amantadine, which is an older antiviral drug.

Lifestyle and home remedies

If you do come down with the flu, these measures may help ease your symptoms:

  • Drink plenty of liquids. Choose water, juice and warm soups to prevent dehydration. Drink enough so that your urine is clear or pale yellow.
  • Rest. Get more sleep to help your immune system fight infection.
  • Consider pain relievers. Use an over-the-counter pain reliever, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol, others) or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, others), to combat the achiness associated with influenza. Don’t give aspirin to children or teens because of the risk of Reye’s syndrome, a rare but potentially fatal disease.

Prevention

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now recommends annual flu vaccination for all Americans over the age of 6 months.

Each year’s seasonal flu vaccine contains protection from the three influenza viruses that are expected to be the most common during that year’s flu season. The vaccine is typically available as an injection or as a nasal spray.

Controlling the spread of infection

The influenza vaccine isn’t 100 percent effective, so it’s also important to take measures to reduce the spread of infection:

  • Wash your hands. Thorough and frequent hand-washing is the best way to prevent many common infections. Scrub your hands vigorously for at least 15 seconds. Or use alcohol-based hand sanitizers if soap and water aren’t readily available.
  • Contain your coughs and sneezes. Cover your mouth and nose when you sneeze or cough. To avoid contaminating your hands, cough or sneeze into a tissue or into the inner crook of your elbow.
  • Avoid crowds. Flu spreads easily wherever people congregate — in child care centers, schools, office buildings, auditoriums and public transportation. By avoiding crowds during peak flu season, you reduce your chances of infection.

How to avoid getting the dreaded flu

Can the vaccine make you sick? What should you do if your coworker (or co-sleeper) is a walking germ? Are natural cures worth the cash? These are the flu answers you’d get from a top doctor if she were your bestie.

  • You can’t get the flu from the flu shot
  • If you smoke, stop — end of story
  • Don’t be the person who always gets sick!
  • Be careful with popular natural remedies
  • Flu can be deadly if you’re pregnant
  • Quarantine the sickie in your family
  • Friends don’t let friends go to work with the flu
  • Don’t believe the exercise myth

Fruits that fight the flu

Apples

If you’re not eating the recommended 5 fruits and vegetables a day, here’s a new reason to head to the produce aisle.

The most popular source of antioxidants in our diet, one apple has an antioxidant effect equivalent to 1,500 mg of vitamin C. Apples are loaded with protective flavonoids, which may prevent heart disease and cancer.

Papayas

With 250 percent of the RDA of vitamin C, a papaya can help kick a cold right out of your system. The beta-carotene and vitamins C and E in papayas reduce inflammation throughout the body, lessening the effects of asthma.

Cranberries

Cranberries have more antioxidants than other common fruits and veggies. One serving has five times the amount in broccoli. Cranberries are a natural probiotic, enhancing good bacteria levels in the gut and protecting it from foodborne illnesses.

Grapefruit

Loaded with vitamin C, grapefruit also contains natural compounds called limonoids, which can lower cholesterol. The red varieties are a potent source of the cancer-fighting substance lycopene.

Bananas

One of the top food sources of vitamin B6, bananas help reduce fatigue, depression, stress and insomnia. Bananas are high in magnesium, which keeps bones strong, and potassium, which helps prevent heart disease and high blood pressure.

What is Flu? How to avoid getting the dreaded flu?http://i0.wp.com/plexusworld.com/wp-content/uploads/12497992-influenza-virus-examples-bird-flu-and-swine-flu.jpg?fit=1024%2C1024http://i0.wp.com/plexusworld.com/wp-content/uploads/12497992-influenza-virus-examples-bird-flu-and-swine-flu.jpg?resize=150%2C150 angelsujimeena Health & Fitness,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,
What Is the Flu? The flu, more scientifically known as influenza, is a highly contagious respiratory infection caused by influenza viruses. The influenza virus usually enters the body through mucus membranes in the mouth, nose, or eyes. When a person with the flu coughs or sneezes, the virus then becomes airborne...
<div> <h2>What Is the Flu?</h2> <div> The flu, more scientifically known as influenza, is a highly contagious respiratory infection caused by influenza viruses. The influenza virus usually enters the body through mucus membranes in the mouth, nose, or eyes. When a person with the flu coughs or sneezes, the virus then becomes airborne and can be inhaled by anyone nearby. You can also get the flu if you’ve touched a contaminated surface like a telephone or a doorknob and then touch your nose or mouth. Of course, the risk of infection is greater in highly populated areas like schools, buses, and crowded urban settings. <h2>Who is at risk?</h2> </div> </div> <div> <div>In most communities, school-age children are the first age group to get the flu. They then carry the virus home and to after-school activities where they interact with other kids. The flu virus is usually prominent from October through May, the time of year typically known as “flu season.”Older adults, young children, and people with specific health conditions are at higher risk for serious flu complications. On average annually in the US: 5% to 20% of the population gets the flu, over 200,000 people are hospitalized from flu complications, and about 23,600 people die from flu-related causes. Read more about the impact of the flu. <div> <h2 id="cold_flu">Is It a Cold or the Flu?</h2> </div> <div> The cold and flu are both respiratory illnesses, but they are caused by different types of viruses with different symptoms. Use this chart to learn the difference between the two. </div> <table> <thead> <tr> <th><strong>Signs and Symptoms</strong></th> <th><strong>Influenza</strong></th> <th><strong>Cold</strong></th> </tr> </thead> <tbody> <tr> <td><strong>Symptom onset</strong></td> <td>Abrupt</td> <td>Gradual</td> </tr> <tr> <td><strong>Fever</strong></td> <td>Usual; lasts 3-4 days</td> <td>Rare</td> </tr> <tr> <td><strong>Aches</strong></td> <td>Usual; often severe</td> <td>Slight</td> </tr> <tr> <td><strong>Chills</strong></td> <td>Fairly common</td> <td>Uncommon</td> </tr> <tr> <td><strong>Fatigue, weakness</strong></td> <td>Usual</td> <td>Sometimes</td> </tr> <tr> <td><strong>Sneezing</strong></td> <td>Sometimes</td> <td>Common</td> </tr> <tr> <td><strong>Stuffy nose</strong></td> <td>Sometimes</td> <td>Common</td> </tr> <tr> <td><strong>Sore throat</strong></td> <td>Sometimes</td> <td>Common</td> </tr> <tr> <td><strong>Chest discomfort, cough</strong></td> <td>Common; can be severe</td> <td>Mild to moderate; hacking cough</td> </tr> <tr> <td><strong>Headache</strong></td> <td>Common</td> <td>Rare</td> </tr> </tbody> </table> </div> </div> <div> <div> <h2 id="types">Types of Flu</h2> </div> <div> There are 3 types of flu viruses. Type A viruses are found in many kinds of animals, including ducks, chickens, pigs, and also humans. The Type B virus widely circulates in humans. Type C has been found in humans, pigs, and dogs, and causes mild respiratory infections, but does not spark epidemics. </div> <div> Influenza virus is one of the most changeable of viruses. Changes may be small and continuous or large and abrupt. <ul> <li><strong>Influenza Type A</strong> is divided into subtypes that can be found worldwide and include H1N1, H1N2, and H3N2 viruses.</li> <li><strong>Influenza Type B</strong> outbreaks can also cause epidemics, but the illness it produces is usually milder than Type A.</li> <li><strong>Influenza Type C</strong> flu viruses are not thought to cause a large epidemic and generally cause only mild respiratory infections.</li> </ul> Flu viruses are constantly changing. A global flu pandemic (worldwide outbreak) can happen if 3 conditions are met: <ul> <li>A new subtype of Type A virus is introduced into the human population.</li> <li>The virus causes serious illness in humans.</li> <li>The virus can spread easily from person to person in a sustained manner.</li> </ul> </div> <h2><strong id="Definition">Definition</strong></h2> Influenza is a viral infection that attacks your respiratory system — your nose, throat and lungs. Influenza, commonly called the flu, is not the same as the stomach "flu" viruses that cause diarrhea and vomiting. Influenza and its complications can be deadly. People at higher risk of developing flu complications include: <ul> <li>Young children</li> <li>Older adults</li> <li>Pregnant women</li> <li>People with weakened immune systems</li> <li>People who have chronic illnesses</li> </ul> Your best defense against influenza is to receive an annual vaccination. <h2><strong id="Symptoms">Symptoms</strong></h2> Initially, the flu may seem like a common cold with a runny nose, sneezing and sore throat. But colds usually develop slowly, whereas the flu tends to come on suddenly. And although a cold can be a nuisance, you usually feel much worse with the flu. Common signs and symptoms of the flu include: <ul> <li>Fever over 100 F (38 C)</li> <li>Aching muscles, especially in your back, arms and legs</li> <li>Chills and sweats</li> <li>Headache</li> <li>Dry cough</li> <li>Fatigue and weakness</li> <li>Nasal congestion</li> </ul> <h2><strong>When to see a doctor</strong></h2> If you have flu symptoms and are at risk of complications, see your doctor right away. Taking antiviral drugs within the first 48 hours after you first notice symptoms may reduce the length of your illness and help prevent more-serious problems. <h2><strong id="Causes">Causes</strong></h2> Flu viruses travel through the air in droplets when someone with the infection coughs, sneezes or talks. You can inhale the droplets directly, or you can pick up the germs from an object — such as a telephone or computer keyboard — and then transfer them to your eyes, nose or mouth. Influenza viruses are constantly changing, with new strains appearing regularly. If you've had influenza in the past, your body has already made antibodies to fight that particular strain of the virus. If future influenza viruses are similar to what you had before, either by having the disease or by vaccination, those antibodies may prevent infection or lessen its severity. But antibodies against flu viruses you've encountered in the past can't protect you from new influenza subtypes that are very different immunologically from what you had before. Four such different (novel) virus subtypes have appeared in humans since the global epidemic (pandemic) of 1918, which killed tens of millions of people. <h2><strong id="Riskfactors">Risk factors</strong></h2> Factors that may increase your risk of developing influenza or its complications include: <ul> <li><strong>Age.</strong> Seasonal influenza tends to target young children and people over 65. The pandemic H1N1 virus that surfaced in 2009, however, appeared to be most common in teenagers and young adults.</li> <li><strong>Occupation.</strong> Health care workers and child care personnel are more likely to have close contact with people infected with influenza.</li> <li><strong>Living conditions.</strong> People who live in facilities along with many other residents, such as nursing homes or military barracks, are more likely to develop influenza.</li> <li><strong>Weakened immune system.</strong> Cancer treatments, anti-rejection drugs, corticosteroids and HIV/AIDS can weaken your immune system. This can make it easier for you to catch influenza and may also increase your risk of developing complications.</li> <li><strong>Chronic illnesses.</strong> Chronic conditions, such as asthma, diabetes or heart problems, may increase your risk of influenza complications.</li> <li><strong>Pregnancy.</strong> Pregnant women are more likely to develop influenza complications, particularly in the second and third trimesters.</li> </ul> <h2><strong id="Complications">Complications</strong></h2> If you're young and healthy, seasonal influenza usually isn't serious. Although you may feel miserable while you have it, the flu usually goes away with no lasting effects. But high-risk children and adults may develop complications such as: <ul> <li>Pneumonia</li> <li>Bronchitis</li> <li>Sinus infections</li> <li>Ear infections</li> </ul> Pneumonia is the most common and most serious. For older adults and people with a chronic illness, pneumonia can be deadly. The best protection is vaccination against both pneumococcal pneumonia and influenza. <h2><strong>Treatments and drugs</strong></h2> Usually, you'll need nothing more than bed rest and plenty of fluids to treat the flu. But in some cases, your doctor may prescribe an antiviral medication, such as oseltamivir (Tamiflu) or zanamivir (Relenza). If taken soon after you notice symptoms, these drugs may shorten your illness by a day or so and help prevent serious complications. Oseltamivir is an oral medication. Zanamivir is inhaled through a device similar to an asthma inhaler and shouldn't be used by anyone with respiratory problems, such as asthma and lung disease. Antiviral side effects may include nausea and vomiting. Oseltamivir has also been associated with delirium and self-harm behaviors in teenagers. Some strains of influenza have become resistant to oseltamivir and to amantadine, which is an older antiviral drug. <h2><strong>Lifestyle and home remedies</strong></h2> If you do come down with the flu, these measures may help ease your symptoms: <ul> <li><strong>Drink plenty of liquids.</strong> Choose water, juice and warm soups to prevent dehydration. Drink enough so that your urine is clear or pale yellow.</li> <li><strong>Rest.</strong> Get more sleep to help your immune system fight infection.</li> <li><strong>Consider pain relievers.</strong> Use an over-the-counter pain reliever, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol, others) or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, others), to combat the achiness associated with influenza. Don't give aspirin to children or teens because of the risk of Reye's syndrome, a rare but potentially fatal disease.</li> </ul> <h2><strong id="Prevention">Prevention</strong></h2> The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now recommends annual flu vaccination for all Americans over the age of 6 months. Each year's seasonal flu vaccine contains protection from the three influenza viruses that are expected to be the most common during that year's flu season. The vaccine is typically available as an injection or as a nasal spray. <h2><strong>Controlling the spread of infection</strong></h2> The influenza vaccine isn't 100 percent effective, so it's also important to take measures to reduce the spread of infection: <ul> <li><strong>Wash your hands.</strong> Thorough and frequent hand-washing is the best way to prevent many common infections. Scrub your hands vigorously for at least 15 seconds. Or use alcohol-based hand sanitizers if soap and water aren't readily available.</li> <li><strong>Contain your coughs and sneezes.</strong> Cover your mouth and nose when you sneeze or cough. To avoid contaminating your hands, cough or sneeze into a tissue or into the inner crook of your elbow.</li> <li><strong>Avoid crowds.</strong> Flu spreads easily wherever people congregate — in child care centers, schools, office buildings, auditoriums and public transportation. By avoiding crowds during peak flu season, you reduce your chances of infection.</li> </ul> </div> <h2>How to avoid getting the dreaded flu</h2> <div>Can the vaccine make you sick? What should you do if your coworker (or co-sleeper) is a walking germ? Are natural cures worth the cash? These are the flu answers you'd get from a top doctor if she were your bestie. <ul> <li>You can't get the flu from the flu shot</li> <li>If you smoke, stop — end of story</li> <li>Don't be the person who always gets sick!</li> <li>Be careful with popular natural remedies</li> <li>Flu can be deadly if you're pregnant</li> <li>Quarantine the sickie in your family</li> <li>Friends don't let friends go to work with the flu</li> <li>Don't believe the exercise myth</li> </ul> <h2>Fruits that fight the flu</h2> <h2>Apples</h2> <div>If you're not eating the recommended 5 fruits and vegetables a day, here's a new reason to head to the produce aisle.</div> The most popular source of antioxidants in our diet, one apple has an antioxidant effect equivalent to 1,500 mg of vitamin C. Apples are loaded with protective flavonoids, which may prevent heart disease and cancer. <h2>Papayas</h2> With 250 percent of the RDA of vitamin C, a papaya can help kick a cold right out of your system. The beta-carotene and vitamins C and E in papayas reduce inflammation throughout the body, lessening the effects of asthma. <h2>Cranberries</h2> Cranberries have more antioxidants than other common fruits and veggies. One serving has five times the amount in broccoli. Cranberries are a natural probiotic, enhancing good bacteria levels in the gut and protecting it from foodborne illnesses. <h2>Grapefruit</h2> Loaded with vitamin C, grapefruit also contains natural compounds called limonoids, which can lower cholesterol. The red varieties are a potent source of the cancer-fighting substance lycopene. <h2>Bananas</h2> One of the top food sources of vitamin B6, bananas help reduce fatigue, depression, stress and insomnia. Bananas are high in magnesium, which keeps bones strong, and potassium, which helps prevent heart disease and high blood pressure. </div>