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Influenza (the flu) is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses. It can cause mild to severe illness, and at times can lead to death. Each year in the United States on average, 5% to 20% of the population gets the flu; on average, more than 200,000 people are hospitalized from flu-related complications, and; about 36,000 people die from flu-related causes. Some people, such as older people, young children, and people with certain health conditions, are at high risk for serious flu complications.
In the Northern hemisphere, winter is the time for flu. The timing and duration of flu seasons vary. While flu outbreaks can happen as early as October, most of the time influenza activity peaks in January or later. During the past 26 flu seasons, months with the heaviest flu activity (peak months) occurred in November one season, December four seasons, January five seasons, February 12 seasons, and March four seasons.
Influenza usually starts suddenly and may include the following symptoms:
Having these symptoms does not always mean that you have the flu. Many different illnesses, including the common cold, can have similar symptoms.
Diagnosing the Flu
It is very difficult to distinguish the flu from other infections on the basis of symptoms alone. A doctor's exam may be needed to tell whether you have developed the flu or a complication of the flu. There are tests that can determine if you have the flu as long as you are tested within the first 2 or 3 days of illness.
If you develop flu-like symptoms and are concerned about your illness, especially if you are at high risk for complications of the flu, you should consult your healthcare provider. Those at high risk for complications include people 65 years or older, people with chronic medical conditions (such as asthma, diabetes or heart disease), pregnant women and young children.
Know How the Flu Spreads
The flu usually spreads from person to person in respiratory droplets when people who are infected cough or sneeze. People occasionally may become infected by touching something with influenza virus on it and then touching their mouth, nose or eyes.
Healthy adults may be able to infect others 1 day before getting symptoms and up to 5 days after getting sick. Therefore, it is possible to give someone the flu before you know you are sick as well as while you are sick.
Alternatives to a Vaccine
Heel, Inc. manufactures a homeopathic flu remedy, Engystol®. Check with your physician to see if this would be a treatment option for you.
The information provided on this site is for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for advice from your physician or other health care professional or any information contained on or in any product label or packaging. You should not use the information on this site for diagnosis or treatment of any health problem or for prescription of any medication or other treatment. You should consult with a healthcare professional before starting any diet, exercise or supplementation program, before taking any medication, or if you have or suspect you might have a health problem.