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Germ Profile

Also Known As: Flu; seasonal flu
Germ Type: Virus
Season: Fall, Winter

Each year, seasonal flu infections cause a variety of symptoms that start suddenly. Usually, a flu only makes you feel rotten for a few days. However, it can be dangerous for young children, older adults, and others with certain health conditions. To protect yourself and your community, you need a flu shot every year.

Seasonality

In Utah, the flu “season” is fall and winter — it follows our cold weather.

Signs & Symptoms

Unlike pandemic flu, seasonal flu is common and predictable. Seasonal flu symptoms usually come on fast, causing chills, fever, muscle aches, tiredness, dry cough, and sore throat. Occasionally, seasonal flu will cause a runny or stuffy nose or, in young children, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.

What can I do today?

Practice prevention—and stop the spread:

  • Get a seasonal flu shot. Everyone in the family (over the age of 6 months) should get a shot — and so should anyone who cares for your baby.
  • Wash your hands often and well—and have children do the same.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick —and if you’re sick, stay home from school or work.
  • Cover your sneezes and coughs.
  • Use a tissue once, then throw it away and wash your hands.

Pay attention:

  • When flu is going around, pay attention to any symptoms your child may have. Most cases of seasonal flu are mild — but be on the lookout for serious symptoms.

Call your child’s doctor if you notice:

  • A harsh, barking cough (like a seal) that may signal croup
  • Wheezing (a whistling sound when breathing in or out)
  • Fast breathing (more than 40 times a minute) or very difficult breathing (retractions, or using the stomach muscles when breathing)
  • Signs of dehydration (dry mouth and eyes, little urine, low energy)
  • Fever higher than 100.2°F in an infant 3 months or younger
  • Fever lasting longer than 3 days
  • Any other severe symptoms or symptoms that last longer than 7 days

Infection Period

Symptoms of influenza virus infection typically develop abruptly within 1 to 4 days after being exposed (or infected). The first symptoms are often chills and fever, headache and body aches, especially in the muscles of the back and legs. Over the next few days, you may experience congestion, sore throat cough and fatigue. Most people recover in about a week (faster for children), but the cough and fatigue often last longer. People infected with influenza are usually contagious for 2 to 7 days and are most contagious on days 2 and 3 of illness.​

Understanding the Infection Timeline

How It's Spread

The flu virus prefers air travel — catching rides on the tiny droplets that fly out when someone sneezes or coughs. However, it can also stick around on surfaces for a while. If you touch something that was recently contaminated and then touch your mouth or nose, you can get infected, too.

Diagnosis & Treatment

Although tests can detect influenza, most diagnoses are made on the basis of symptoms and physical exam.

People who have a higher risk for serious illness from influenza may need treatment with an antiviral medication. However, most people with the flu need only rest and sympathy until the infection clears on its own. Until it does, they can treat the symptoms with over-the-counter medications.

Related Conditions

Disclaimer: The contents of this website are not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

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