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Flu Season

Image by Kelly Sikkema

Flu (influenza) is an infection of the nose, throat and lungs, which are part of the respiratory system. Influenza is commonly called the flu, but it's not the same as stomach "flu" viruses that cause diarrhea and vomiting.

Most people with the flu get better on their own. But sometimes, influenza and its complications can be deadly. People at higher risk of developing flu complications include:

Young children under age 2
Adults older than age 65
Residents of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities
People who are pregnant or plan to be pregnant during flu season
People with weakened immune systems
American Indians or Alaska Natives
People who have chronic illnesses, such as asthma, heart disease, kidney disease, liver disease and diabetes
People with a body mass index (BMI) of 40 or higher

At first, the flu may seem like a common cold with a runny nose, sneezing and sore throat. Colds usually develop slowly. But the flu tends to come on suddenly. And while a cold can be miserable, you usually feel much worse with the flu.

Common symptoms of the flu include:

Aching muscles
Chills and sweats
Dry, persistent cough
Shortness of breath
Tiredness and weakness
Runny or stuffy nose
Sore throat
Eye pain
Vomiting and diarrhea, but this is more common in children than adults



When to see a doctor:
Most people who get the flu can treat themselves at home and often don't need to see a health care provider.

If you have flu symptoms and are at risk of complications, see your health care provider right away. Taking antiviral medication may shorten the length of your illness and help prevent more-serious problems.

If you have emergency symptoms of the flu, get medical care right away. For adults, emergency symptoms can include:

Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
Chest pain
Ongoing dizziness
Worsening of existing medical conditions
Severe weakness or muscle pain
Emergency symptoms in children can include:

Difficulty breathing
Pale, gray or blue-colored skin, lips or nail beds — depending on skin color
Chest pain
Severe muscle pain
Worsening of existing medical conditions


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