What is the flu?  The flu is a virus (influenza) that attacks the respiratory system.  Once it enters the respiratory tract, it becomes swollen and inflamed.  The virus begins to attach to normal cells and take over their function and duplicate themselves . Once the virus is spread in the respiratory system it enters the blood stream, and the accompanying signs and symptoms follow.  It’s usually spread though the droplets of an infected person coughing or sneezing and picked up by inhaling them directly or touching your clothing. The virus can last a few seconds to 48 hours on inanimate objects, depending on the surface and temperature.

How is the flu different from a cold? Because colds and the flu share many of the same symptoms best way to identify which is through testing.  However the body aches, runny nose, congestion, fever, sneezing, coughing, sweats, shaking, diarrhea, vomiting, light-headedness /weakness and tiredness are much more extreme in the flu.  A cold may last only a few days while they symptoms of the flu can lasts for weeks.  Unlike a cold the flu makes a person more susceptible to other serious complications, like pneumonia, dehydration, sinus infection and worsening of preexisting conditions such as asthma and diabetes.

How long does it take to see symptoms after you’ve been infected? The incubation period of influenza is usually two days but can range from 1-4 days.

How long does the flu last? The flu is a self-limiting virus, meaning  after a while it will clear up.  The early symptoms including fever may last 3- days. Weakness, light-headedness and cough can last up to to 1-2 weeks.

So, when are you most contagious? Most experts agree that adults with a cold or the flu start being contagious about a day before they start experiencing symptoms. For the flu, the contagious period then lasts five to seven days into the illness. For children, the contagious period for the flu can last up to two weeks after they start feeling sick, even if they start feeling better before that. The contagious period for a cold lasts about three to four days into the illness. As a general rule, people with a cold are most contagious about three days after their initial exposure to the virus.

How do you treat the flu? Basically you are treating the symptoms, as with any virus it just has to run it’s course.  Fever reducers, cough suppressants, decongestants, pain relievers. There are many over the counter flu medications.  Make sure to stay hydrated and eat even though you might not feel like it do the best you can to get nutrients in.

How can you prevent the flu? If you ask any Dr. or health care professional the first thing many of them will say is get the flu shot.  Although I have been a nurse for almost 2 decades this is not the first thing I will tell you to do! First I think you should build up own immune system. People with lower immune systems are more susceptible to the flu, exp. Young children and the elderly.  Most flu vaccinations protect against 90% of the different types of flu.



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Shelita Williams, R.N. helps aspiring and established women entrepreneurs who struggle with achieving their health and fitness goals, to lose weight, increase energy, boost confidence and establish brand integrity so that they are poised, fit and motivated to start, manage and grow their business! Sign up for your free eCourse and Reign in Health and Fitness updates!