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    Flu Facts

    Influenza (the flu) is a contagious illness caused by viruses that infect the nose, throat and lungs. It can cause mild to severe illness and can even lead to death. The best way to prevent the flu is to get a flu vaccine each year.

    What is the "stomach flu"?
    Any illness that causes nausea, vomiting or diarrhea may be called the “stomach flu,” but if these are your main symptoms, the influenza virus is not the cause.

    How serious is it, and who is at most risk?

    Each year in the United States, up to 20 percent of the population gets influenza (often called the flu), and about 200,000 people are hospitalized from its complications.

    Highest risk:

    • Adults 65 years and older
    • Children younger than 5 years old
    • People with ongoing health conditions such as diabetes, asthma, COPD, heart failure or kidney problems

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    What are the symptoms?

    Adult symptoms may include:

    • Temperature of 100°F or above
    • Moderate to severe cough or chest discomfort
    • Moderate to severe exhaustion
    • Moderate to severe headache or muscle aches
    • Little or no appetite
    • Body chills
    Children experience similar symptoms to those in adults. However, children tend to have higher temperatures than adults and they may also have nausea and vomiting or stomach pain.

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    What should I do if I get sick?

    • Stay home and get plenty of rest.
    • Take pain medication (such as aspirin, ibuprofen and acetaminophen) for fever and aches. If you’re allergic to these medicines, contact your doctor.
      • Pregnant women should not take ibuprofen.
      • Do not give children aspirin.
    • Drink plenty of fluids, especially water, soups and drinks with electrolytes.
    • Minimize exposure to others at home or elsewhere.
    • If you suspect you have the flu, talk to your doctor to see if prescription antiviral medication can help you feel better. Antiviral drugs can lessen symptoms and shorten the time you’re sick. Antivirals work best if started within two days of getting sick.
    • Contact your doctor if you have severe symptoms or if you’re in a group more likely to have complications, such as: children under 5 or adults 65 and older, or people with ongoing health conditions such as diabetes, asthma, COPD, heart failure or kidney problems.

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    When should I call the doctor?

    Adults
    Call the doctor if you:

    • Vomit repeatedly
    • Have flu-like symptoms that improve at first, but then return with a fever and worsening cough
    • Have flu-like symptoms and are a “high-risk” patient with asthma or other lung problems, diabetes, heart or kidney disease or a weakened immune system.

    Seek emergency care if you:
    • Have difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
    • Have pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
    • Experience sudden dizziness or confusion

    Children
    Call the doctor if your child:
    • Cannot or will not drink enough fluids
    • Stops urinating or doesn’t make tears when crying
    • Vomits repeatedly
    • Cries for long periods of time and can’t be comforted
    • Has flu-like symptoms that improve at first, but then return with a fever and worsening cough
    • Has flu-like symptoms and is a “high-risk” patient with asthma or other lung problems, diabetes, heart or kidney disease or a weakened immune system
    Seek emergency care if your child’s skin turns blue or gray, if he or she struggles to breathe or breathes very fast, is sleepy and cannot be woken, or cannot interact with you.

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    Is there a vaccine, and who should get it?

    Flu vaccines (either the flu shot or the nasal spray flu vaccine) are available annually. Most adults and children – except infants under 6 months – should be vaccinated to reduce the chance of getting the flu and spreading it to others. If you have an egg allergy, consult your physician before receiving a flu vaccine.

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