Flu is a highly contagious illness occurring most often in the winter months, and anyone can get it. It can be severe for children, the elderly and the chronically ill. Getting an annual vaccine is the best way to help prevent it.1
What are the symptoms?
Flu causes a fever, body aches, a headache, a dry cough, and a sore or dry throat. You will probably feel tired and less hungry than usual.2 Symptoms can come on quickly, typically appearing about one to four days after exposure to a virus.3 While symptoms usually decrease after the first three or four days, it can take up to two weeks to make a full recovery.4
Certain people are at higher risk of problems from flu, including young children, pregnant women, older adults, and people with long-term illnesses or impaired immune systems that make it hard to fight infections.
Possible complications of flu
Most people get better without problems. But sometimes, flu can lead to other issues.5
- Pneumonia is an infection of the lungs. It rarely causes death in young, healthy people, but it can often be life-threatening in older adults, people with other diseases, and pregnant women.
- This complication causes inflammation of the small air passages. It affects infants and is the leading cause of serious lower respiratory illness.
- Sinusitis occurs when the mucous membranes that line the inside of the nose and facial sinuses become infected and inflamed.
- Croup is a swelling or blockage in the windpipe. It causes hoarseness, a barking cough, a high-pitched sound when breathing in, and trouble breathing.
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) symptoms may worsen.
- Inflammation of the heart muscle, the sac around the heart, or other muscles.
Learn more about flu and get tips to help prevent it.
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- National Foundation for Infectious Diseases. Influenza. http://www.nfid.org/influenza. Accessed 1 August 2022.
- Influenza. https://www.cigna.com/knowledge-center/hw/medical-topics/influenza-hw122012. Accessed 9 March 2022.
- Flu complications. https://www.cigna.com/knowledge-center/hw/flu-complications-hw121734. Accessed 9 February 2022.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. How flu spreads. https://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/disease/spread.htm. Accessed 31 October
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Clinical signs and symptoms of influenza. https://www.cdc.gov/flu/professionals/acip/clinical.htm. Accessed 31 October
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