Is it a Cold or the Flu?

The flu (also called influenza) is a viral infection. It affects the respiratory system. It can cause mild-to-severe illness, and sometimes it can lead to death. View the different symptoms below:

Infographic courtesy of Sharecare, Inc.

What is influenza?

The flu is a respiratory infection caused by influenza viruses A or B. It can infect the nose, throat and lungs. It can be mild or severe. A severe flu can lead to complications (such as pneumonia or bronchitis) and can be life threatening. The flu can also make chronic health conditions worse. A child who has asthma may experience attacks. Or someone with congestive heart failure may experience a decline triggered by influenza.

How long does the flu last?

The flu can last just a few days or up to two weeks.

How do you treat the flu?

Most people who get the flu will get better with rest and time. Antiviral drugs taken within the first 48 hours of flu signs can lessen flu symptoms and reduce the length of time you are sick by one to two days. Head to your family doctor or nearest urgent care if you think you may have the flu. If you missed this time window, many of the same remedies you use for a cold may help, such as getting plenty of rest and drinking lots of liquids. Many studies suggest chicken noodle soup can help reduce cold and flu symptoms.

Where can I get a flu shot?

HCA North Florida offers 18 ERs, 3 urgent care clinics and over 35 primary care locations in the North Florida area to provide you with the fast, high-quality care when you need it.

Do I have the flu?

The flu usually begins abruptly. Common flu symptoms can include fever, fatigue, headaches and body aches. But it’s not always so cut-and-dried. Symptoms can present differently in different people.

How long does a flu test take?

You will have your flu test results in about 30 minutes or less. There are several different influenza test available; however, their ability to detect the virus varies. Your North Florida physician will work with you to decide if a flu test is necessary or if their clinical judgement will suffice. Many times, flu tests are unnecessary because it will not change the treatment recommendation.

Can dogs catch the flu from people?

Your dog cannot catch the flu from you. However, there are flu strains that are specific to dogs.

How contagious is the flu?

You may be contagious one day before developing flu symptoms and five to seven days after symptoms present. This period of time can be extended for kids or people with weakened immune systems. Tips to defend yourself against influenza:

  • Get the flu shot before the end of October
  • Practice good hand hygiene
  • Exercise! It can help build your immune system
  • Practice relaxation techniques such as yoga. Your body can repair itself by limiting stress

Can you get the flu twice?

Yes, unfortunately, you can get the flu twice, three times or even more. There are many different strains of the flu and they are constantly changing. Small genetic changes can happen over time and as they add up, your body may not recognize the virus and be able to fight it. Occasionally, a major change may occur quickly (remember H1N1 or “swine flu” in 2009?). The annual flu vaccines are updated to combat the most common circulating viruses. That’s why it is so important to get the flu shot every year.

Can you get the flu in May?

While it is possible to get the flu outside of flu season (October – May), the virus is more active in the colder months and usually peaks between December and March.