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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 Flu?
Most people 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.
For 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
This 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.

Cold 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.

Blood 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.

Your 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.

The swelling in the nose can block air passages and sinus openings, which causes congestion and could lead to bacterial infections of the sinuses.

The 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.

The 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.

Flu Fact
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.




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