Never give aspirin to children or teenagers who have flu-like symptoms – and particularly fever – without first speaking to your doctor. Giving aspirin to children and teenagers who have influenza can cause a rare but serious illness called Reye syndrome. Children or teenagers with the flu should get plenty of rest, drink lots of liquids, and take medicines that contain no aspirin to relieve symptoms.
Frequently Asked Questions
The flu is spread, or transmitted, when a person who has the flu coughs, sneezes, or speaks and sends flu virus into the air, and other people inhale the virus. The virus enters the nose, throat, or lungs of a person and begins to multiply, causing symptoms of influenza. Influenza may, less often, be spread when a person touches a surface that has flu viruses on it – a door handle, for instance – and then touches his or her nose or mouth.
Your respiratory illness might be the flu if you have sudden onset of body aches, fever, and respiratory symptoms, and your illness occurs during November through April (the usual flu season in the Northern Hemisphere). However, during this time, other respiratory illnesses can cause similar symptoms and the flu can be caught at any time of the year. It is impossible to tell for sure if you have the flu based on symptoms alone. Doctors can perform tests to see if you have the flu if you are in the first few days of your illness.
The Myth of the "Stomach Flu"
Many people use the term "stomach flu" to describe illnesses with nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea. These symptoms can be caused by many different viruses, bacteria, or even parasites. While vomiting, diarrhea, and being nauseous or "sick to your stomach" can sometimes be related to the flu – particularly in children – these problems are rarely the main symptoms of influenza. The flu is a respiratory disease and not a stomach or intestinal disease.
See Other Flu Questions and Answers from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
Pregnant women are at increased risk for complications from the flu. All women who will be pregnant at any time during influenza season should be vaccinated. Flu shots will protect women, their unborn babies and will even protect the babies after birth.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:
See the Centers for Disease Control's website for more information
Influenza, also known as the flu, is a contagious disease that is caused by the influenza virus.
It attacks the respiratory tract in humans (nose, throat, and lungs). The flu is different from a cold. Influenza usually comes on suddenly and may include these symptoms:
Stomach symptoms, such as
Influenza can cause mild to severe illness, and at times can lead to death. The best way to prevent this illness is by getting an annual flu vaccination each fall.
Every year in the United States, on average:
- 5% to 20% of the population gets the flu;
- more than 200,000 people are hospitalized from flu complications, and;
- about 36,000 people die from flu.
Some people, such as older people, young children, and people with certain health conditions, are at high risk for serious flu complications. But in order to protect yourself and to prevent the spread of flu to those close to you, an annual flu vaccination is recommended for everyone aged 6 months and older.
- Get plenty of rest
- Drink lots of liquids
- Avoid using alcohol and tobacco
- Consider taking over the counter medications to relieve the symptoms of the flu (but never give asprin to children or teenagers who have flu-like symptoms)
- Stay home and avoid contact with other people to protect them from catching your illness
- Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze to protect others from your germs
Most healthy people recover from the flu without complications.
It is very difficult to distinguish the flu from other infections on the basis of symptoms alone. A doctor's exam may be needed to tell whether you have developed the flu or a complication of the flu. There are tests that can determine if you have the flu as long you are tested within the first 2 or 3 days of illness.
If you develop flu-like symptoms and are concerned about your illness, especially if are at high risk for complications of the flu, you should consult your health-care provider. Those at high risk for complications include people 65 years or older, people with chronic medical conditions, pregnant women, and young children.
Influenza is caused by a virus, so antibiotics (like penicillin) don't work to cure it. The best way to prevent the flu is to get an influenza vaccine (flu shot) each year, before flu season.
At least annually. Talk with your doctor or call the local health department to get current information about when you should get your flu annual vaccination.
Everyone who is at least 6 months of age should get a flu vaccine every year.