Influenza (flu) is a viral infection of the nose, throat, windpipe, and bronchi that occurs every winter. The main symptoms are a runny nose, sore throat, and nagging cough. Usually there’s more muscle pain, headache, fever, and chills than colds usually cause.
Flu is caused by influenza viruses. Flu viruses change yearly, which is why people can get the flu every year. The virus is spread by sneezing, coughing, and hand contact. It spreads rapidly because the incubation period is only 24 to 36 hours and the virus is very contagious. Thus, the spread of flu is very difficult to prevent.
The treatment of influenza depends on your main symptoms and is no different from the treatment for other viral respiratory infections.
Stuffy or blocked nose: Saline (salt water) nose drops or spray followed by suction (or nose blowing) will open most blocked noses. Use nasal saline at least 4 times a day or whenever you can't breathe through the nose. You can buy saline nose drops or spray without a prescription.
The fever lasts 2 to 3 days, the runny or stuffy nose 1 to 2 weeks, and the cough 2 to 3 weeks.
All teens can benefit by getting the flu vaccine. Those with chronic diseases (for example, asthma) especially need to come in for yearly influenza boosters. Pregnant teens also are at high risk for complications from the flu and need to be protected by the vaccine. Anyone who wants to reduce their chances of getting the flu should get the flu shot. A new flu shot is needed every year because flu viruses keep changing. Talk with your healthcare provider or parents about flu shots.
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