Flu symtoms include fever, chills, body aches, headache, sore throat, coughing, sneezing, runny nose, and fatigue. Rarely, flu symptons also include nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. The flu is primarily a respiratory illness, though. If your stomach is upset, you probably have a stomach virus, not the flu. Swine flu can cause digestive upset, though.
Flu symtoms are similar to cold symptoms, but are usually more severe. Flu symptons also often include a high fever, which is rare with colds. Symptoms often come on very suddenly with the flu, while a cold usually develops more gradually.
One good way to prevent the flu is to get a flu shot. You have to get one each year because the flu virus mutates. Last year's vaccine will not protect you this year. Flu shots are usually available by mid-fall. Some people worry about catching the flu from the flu shot, but that is not possible because the vaccine is not made from live flu virus.
If possible, you should avoid people who are sick with flu symtoms. The flu is very contagious. Of course, it isn't always possible to avoid people who are sick. Washing your hands frequently will help prevent you from getting sick. If you can't wash with soap and water, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
The good news is that flu symptons usually go away on their own without any treatment. The virus simply runs its course. The bad news is that symptoms usually last five to seven days (sometimes a little longer in children) and you can feel quite miserable during that time. Fortunately, there are some things you can do.
First of all, there are a number of over-the-counter remedies you can use to treat flu symtoms. You can use Tylenol or ibuprofen for fever, headaches, and body aches. You can use antihistamines if you are sneezing or have a runny nose. You can use throat lozenges for a sore throat, and you can use cough suppressants as needed. There are over-the-counter flu remedies that contain several different types of medication to address multiple symptoms.
Over-the-counter flu remedies can have side effects. The most common side effects are drowsiness and insomnia (you might get just one or the other, or you might get both, which is a really bad combination). Be wary of mixing and matching assorted over-the-counter remedies, because they may interact with one another and make side effects worse. You can talk to your doctor or pharmacist about which remedy would be best for you.
There are antiviral medications available by prescription that help speed the recovery process from the flu. These work by preventing the virus from replicating itself. Doctors don't always prescribe them because you will generally recover from the flu without them, but if you see your doctor for flu symptons, you may be given a prescription. They can have some side effects as well, including nausea and vomiting, confusion, and skin reactions.
While most over-the-counter drugs can offer some relief, there are a couple of all-natural products that many consider better choices:
See your doctor in the fall if you want to get a flu shot. If you do get the flu, you may not need medical treatment because the virus will usually just run its course in a week or so. However, in rare instances the flu can be very serious, even deadly, so see your doctor if you have any concerns. Definitely see your doctor if your flu symptons are very severe, if they last longer than one week, if you have a high fever, if you have pre-existing conditions, or if you have trouble breathing.
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