Flu, also called influenza, is a respiratory infection caused by viruses entering your nose or mouth.

Flu, also called influenza, is a respiratory infection caused by a number of viruses. The viruses pass through the air and enter your body through your nose or mouth. Between 5 percent and 20 percent of people in the United States get the flu each year. The flu can be serious or even deadly for elderly people, newborn babies and people with certain chronic illnesses.

Symptoms of the flu come on suddenly and are worse than those of the common cold. They may include:

  • Body or muscle aches
  • Chills
  • Cough
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Sore throat

Is it a cold or the flu? Colds rarely cause a fever or headaches. Flu almost never causes an upset stomach. And "stomach flu" isn't really flu at all, but gastroenteritis.

Most people with the flu recover on their own without medical care. People with mild cases of the flu should stay home and avoid contact with others, except to get medical care. If you get the flu, your healthcare provider may prescribe medicine to help your body fight the infection and lessen symptoms.

The main way to keep from getting the flu is to get a yearly flu vaccine. Good hygiene, including hand washing, can also help.

Source: National Institutes of Health (NIH): National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases

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