7 Facts About the Flu

You may have questions about how the virus can affect your loved ones.

By Danielle Roberts, M.D.
Pediatric Resident, PGY2
Baylor College of Medicine
The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio

With the holidays just around the corner, many families are looking forward to fun-filled and quality family time. Whether it involves looking for the best deals, organizing elaborate feasts, or festively decorating homes, planning is key for a smooth and enjoyable time for all!

Along with these exciting times, unfortunately, also ‘tis the season for the flu virus. Being sick with this virus can affect precious family time, and you may have questions about how the virus can affect your loved ones. This blog will explain seven facts about the flu.

  1. Influenza, or the flu, is very contagious. The virus is spread by touching surfaces or inhaling droplets of air that have come in contact with someone who has the flu. Coughing, sneezing, or shaking hands may spread the virus.
  2. It can affect people of any age, but may be more serious in certain people. Babies, older adults, pregnant mothers, and people with health problems like asthma may have more serious symptoms.
  3. Symptoms usually include fever, headache, muscle aches, fatigue, cough, and sore throat. The fever usually lasts two to five days, but fatigue can last up to weeks, making working or going to school difficult.
  4. Complications of the flu can be very serious. More than 200,000 people per year in the U.S. will be hospitalized due to complications from the flu. One of these complications is a bacterial infection of the lung called pneumonia, which can be life threatening.
  5. Thousands of people per year in the U.S. die from complications of the flu. The Centers for Disease Control monitors the number of deaths, which changes from year to year, and went up to about 56,000 deaths during 2012-2013.
  6. Although some people may qualify for antiviral medicines, these medicines do not get rid of symptoms. If your doctor determines the medicine is right for you, then it may decrease the length of time you have symptoms by about one day.
  7. Antibiotics are not helpful to treat the flu. Antibiotics only help to treat bacteria, and not viruses, like influenza. They should only be used in the context of flu if you have a complication of the flu called pneumonia (see fact No. 4 above).

The best way to prevent the flu is by getting the flu shot. Covering your cough and using good hand-washing techniques are also very helpful.

Have more questions about the flu? Please do not hesitate to ask your pediatrician, or look at this trusted website for more information: www.cdc.gov/flu/

If you need to find a pediatrician for your child, please visit this page.

From all of us here at The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio, happy holidays and stay healthy!