The flu is caused by a virus that invades your airways through your nose or mouth. Every year, many adults and children are hospitalized as a result of complications that develop from flu infections, including very serious complications like pneumonia, bronchitis, and heart problems. Very young children, the elderly, and people with compromised immune systems are all at an increased risk of these complications, although anyone can develop them.
When the flu first begins, it causes many of the same symptoms as a cold (which is caused by a different virus), but the flu creates a more lousy feeling, and it takes a lot longer to recover from. Flu also tends to develop more rapidly than a cold. The most common symptoms of the flu include:
You may also have a dry cough.
The primary treatments for flu include rest and drinking plenty of fluids. In very few cases, Dr. McKenzie may prescribe an antiviral medication to reduce the risk of complications, especially if it’s early in the course of the disease, but in most cases, these medications won’t be necessary. Having a flu shot each season is the best way to prevent flu, and it’s also important to wash your hands often. People who are at an increased risk for flu may want to avoid crowds when possible during the height of flu season.
The flu shot uses a very small amount of “dead” or “inactive” flu virus to stimulate your body’s immune system producing antibodies, special “agents” whose job is to seek out and destroy the flu virus. Once the population of antibodies is established, your body will be able to fight off infection for that season. After your shot, you may feel mildly feverish or achy as your body ramps up its production of antibodies, but these symptoms will resolve within a day or two.
The CDC recommends flu vaccines for anyone over six months of age to help prevent the disease and the complications it can cause. Some patients may have a nasal spray instead of a shot. It’s also important to let Dr. McKenzie know if you have any allergies to eggs since the “regular” vaccine uses eggs during production. In those cases, Dr. McKenzie can provide a vaccine that’s egg-free.
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