The flu is a contagious illness caused by
a virus. The flu, or influenza, is easy to catch and anyone
can get it. In 1995, about 108 million people in America
caught the flu according to the Centers for Disease Control
and Prevention. Since most people have had the flu at least
once, you probably have a good idea how it feels.
What Are the Symptoms of
who come down with the flu get fevers, headaches, muscle
aches, and chills, and lose their appetite. There are many
over-the-counter medications available to alleviate flu
symptoms. The flu may also make them feel weak, and some
people even get depressed. They may also feel bored or lonely.
a few days, they will have a fever and probably need to stay
in bed. After their fever goes away, they'll probably still
need to stay home because they may be weak and tired. Once
their strength has returned, they'll gradually be able to go
back to doing all of their regular activities.
For healthy children and adults, the flu usually lasts about a
week. For people over 65, or those who are not well to begin
with, the flu can be a very serious illness. It will take a
greater toll on them and it may take them longer to recover.
A Closer Look at Flu
is what a cold virus looks like. There are over 200 cold
viruses. After you catch one of the viruses, your body builds
up immunity to it, and you are less likely to catch that cold
again. That's one reason why adults generally have fewer colds than
children do, adults are immune to more of the cold viruses.
and flu viruses enter the nose, mouth and eyes through
droplets in the air and through contact with the things we
touch. Cold symptoms appear 18 to 48 hours after exposure to a
virus. Flu attacks stronger and faster than colds, and usually
strikes between December and March. Though colds and flu share
many of the same symptoms, flu is more severe, lasts longer
and often includes a high fever.
vessels in and around the nose dilate in response to the
virus. This speeds up the arrival of germ-fighting cells and
causes the mucous membrane to swell. The body also releases
extra histamine, a chemical that causes blood vessels to
dilate even more.
body's fight against the virus results in irritation, swelling
and increased mucus production. The mucus flushes the viruses
down the throat. Both the virus and the germ-fighting cells in
the mucus can irritate the throat, causing the soreness and
coughing you might experience with flu.
swelling in the nose can block air passages and sinus
openings, which causes congestion and could lead to bacterial
infections of the sinuses.
same process can happen in the ear. Swelling around the
opening in the eustachian tube (which connects the middle ear
with the throat) traps bacteria and fluid in the middle ear.
This can result in an infection and the earaches suffered by
many people, especially children and infants.
body's virus-fighting efforts put a strain on your whole body.
That's what triggers the aches, pains, fatigue and higher
fever that often accompany flu.
Since the 1940s, the flu vaccine
has been available to help prevent flu or lessen its severity.
Because the flu virus changes constantly, new vaccines are
developed every year.