by Katelyn Schwanke
(last updated September 5, 2008)
Flu, or influenza, is a viral infection that infects your throat, lungs and nose. The flu kills 36,000 people every year so recognizing and treating the flu early can actually save your life however, be aware that treatment is usually simple and the majority of people have no long term complications. Everyone is at risk for getting the flu but the elderly and those with weak immune systems (post-chemotherapy patients and AIDS patients) are particularly likely to get the flu and have major complications.
The flu can be prevented with a flu shot available at community health centers, pharmacies and the doctor's office; the flu shot is part of the virus that has been killed so that it helps your body build up immunity to the strain of virus that is going around that year. It is a myth that you will develop flu symptoms, you may feel weak but it does not make you sick; most people have absolutely no side effects associated with the flu shot. If possible, try to get your flu shot early in the season because it takes your body two weeks to develop antibodies for your immune system to attack the virus if you are exposed to it.
If you do not get a flu shot you should be able to identify the symptoms of flu so you can get treatment. A fever of 101 in adults or 103-105 in children will indicate that the body is fighting some kind of infection or virus and should automatically make you consider flu if is it flu season (September through February). If the fever is accompanied by chills, sweats, headache, cough, nasal congestion and muscle fatigue you should be sure to get lots of fluids (Gatorade and water are the best) and plenty of rest to help your body heal itself. If symptoms do not get better with fluids and rest you may contact your doctor and get medication.
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