It is a new year, full of hope and possibilities! But you are stuck in bed feeling miserable. It’s no surprise. January doesn’t only signal a new year, it is also the peak of flu season.
The flu (or influenza) is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses. Every year about 5-20% of people in the United States get it. For most it will mean being absolutely miserable for about one to two weeks, but for the elderly or people with medical conditions it can be deadly. In fact, in the U.S. the flu kills about 36,000 people and 200,000 people are hospitalized every year.
There are a lot of misconceptions about the flu, which is unfortunate because it can be so serious. So what’s your flu IQ? Take the test and if you get a 100%, let us know and we will give you a big pat on the back!
The flu (or influenza) is just a bad kind of cold.
Although they are both respiratory illnesses, they are caused by different viruses. It can be hard to tell the difference between the two because their symptoms are so similar. However the flu is more likely to come on suddenly and includes symptoms like a high fever, extreme fatigue, body aches, headache, dry cough, and a loss of appetite. It is also more likely to cause other serious medical complications like pneumonia, ear and sinus infections, and dehydration.
The flu and the stomach flu are not the same thing.
The stomach flu is a stomach or intestinal disease and is not caused by the influenza virus. It is generally caused by other viruses, parasites, or bacteria. Symptoms of the stomach flu usually include nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, and only last 24 to 48 hours.
The best way to prevent the flu is:
A) To wash your hands frequently.
B) To get a flu vaccine.
C) To avoid coming in contact with people who are sick.
D) To make sure you get plenty of rest, eat well, and stay healthy.
E) To stay out of the cold.
Although A, C, and D are all very important ways to prevent the flu, the CDC says that the most effective way is by getting a flu vaccine every year. A flu vaccine causes your body to develop antibodies that can protect against the viruses in the vaccine. And it is still not too late to get one!
Contrary to popular belief, being cold does not cause the flu. Since you are more likely to get the flu in the winter many people associate the cold weather with getting a cold or the flu. But it is actually being shut up indoors together that makes the winter such a popular time to get sick. When somebody coughs or sneezes they spread droplets that carry the flu virus. You can become infected when you either breathe in one of the droplets or pick it up from an infected surface.
Some ways to treat the flu include (check all that apply):
A) Getting lots of rest.
B) Drinking plenty of fluids.
C) Asking your doctor to prescribe an antibiotic.
D) Asking your doctor for an anti-viral medication.
Getting a lot of rest and staying hydrated are the best way to treat a cold. Your body needs all the resources it can get to fight off the infection.
But skip taking the antibiotics—they don’t work on flu viruses, they only work on bacteria. In fact, there are actually a lot of downsides to taking an antibiotic for the flu. When we overuse antibiotics, bacteria can become resistant to antibiotics and harder to treat in the future. Plus taking antibiotics can cause side effects like diarrhea, nausea, and yeast infections. Who wants to deal with that if it isn’t even going to help you feel better?
If you get to the doctor within 48 hours of developing symptoms, anti-viral medications can help reduce the amount of time you are sick and prevent serious complications. Drugs like Tamiflu and Relenza are particularly helpful for those who are in the high-risk group for complications.
Getting the flu vaccine can give you the flu.
The flu shot or nasal spray cannot give you the flu because they contain only dead or weakened flu viruses. A small number of people might experience achiness or a mild fever after receiving the vaccine, but the symptoms generally only last about 24 hours and are not even close to the severity or duration of getting the actual flu.
The flu is only contagious while you have symptoms.
The flu can be contagious one day before symptoms develop and 5 to 7 days after you become sick. So somebody who does not have any symptoms may still be able to infect somebody else.
Mayo Clinic: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/influenza/DS00081
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: http://www.cdc.gov/flu/
U.S. Department of Health & Human Services: http://www.flu.gov