What is the Flu

Influenza, more commonly known as the flu, is a contagious viral infection that affects the respiratory system.

There are 4 different types of influenza, but the ones that cause the yearly flu are influenza A and influenza B.


Common flu symptoms include:

  • Coughing
  • Sneezing
  • Runny or stuffed nose
  • Sore throat
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Muscle pain
  • Fatigue
  • Chills
  • Vomiting or diarrhea (more common in children)


The flu is caused by the influenza virus. Type A and B influenza are the ones that are typically associated with “flu season”. You can catch flu any time of year, but it’s most common during the winter months, as the people tend to spend more time indoors, and in close quarters.

You’re most contagious in the first 3-4 days of illness, but can begin infecting others 1 day before symptoms appear, and up to 7 days after becoming sick.

Kids, or those with weak immune systems, may be contagious for even longer.

The most common way flu is spread, according to experts, is through droplets from coughing, sneezing, or talking.


Most of the time, rest and hydration is the best way to treat the flu.

For those at risk of complications like pneumonia, antiviral medication may be appropriate. Antiviral medications can reduce flu symptoms, and can reduce the length of time you’re sick by up to 2 days.

Speak to a doctor to find out it antiviral medications are needed for you.


Annual vaccination, or the “flu shot”, is the best way to help prevent the flu.

Other ways to help prevent spreading and catching the virus:

  • Wash your hands regularly
  • Covering your mouth when sneezing or coughing (prefereblyu into your elbow)
  • Stay home if you’re feeling sick
  • Avoid large crows, or close contact, if someone is sick

Risk Factors

Anyone can catch flu, but some have a higher risk of getting sick, or developing complications.

Factors that make you high risk include:

  • Being over 65 years old
  • Immunocompromised
  • Chronic medical condition such as asthma, diabetes, or heart disease
  • Pregnant women
  • Young children (less than 5 years old)


High risk people are more likely to develop complications from flu, and some complications are caused by things other than just the flu.

Flu complications include:

  • Pneumonia
  • Heart inflammation
  • Brain inflammation
  • Muscle inflammation
  • Multi-organ failure

When to See a Doctor

If you’re a healthy adult with no existing medical conditions, time to rest, and plenty of water, are probably enough to get you back to health.

If you have existing medical conditions, are elderly, or have other risk factors that may increase your chances of complications, speak to a doctor if you think you’re sick. Also, be sure to get your annual flu shot as the winter months begin to approach.

If you have children younger than 5 years old, especially infants, speak to a doctor if they show signs of flu.