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Flu vaccine is one of the most effective methods of preventing this disease. It is available in nearly all parts of the world. It does not have any serious side effects, and should be taken by those six months of age and above.

Influenza, commonly known as flu, is a viral disease caused due to influenza virus. Due to their similarity in symptoms, common cold and flu are often confused with each other or used interchangeably. However, these two are completely different conditions. Influenza or flu is severer than common cold. Sometimes, a blood test may also be required to diagnose this disease.

Causes and Symptoms
As mentioned above, influenza is caused due to influenza virus A, B and C. Among the three, flu caused by the type A virus gives rise to acute symptoms. On the other hand, types B and C are less common and also less severe. Symptoms include headache, high fever, chills, general feeling of sickness, weakness, fatigue and body aches. Other symptoms of flu are similar to that of common cold, like runny nose, sore throat and cough. In severe cases, if complications develop, symptoms like delirium and vomiting may also be observed.

Duration
The flu infection can last for 3-10 days.
However, as the duration and severity of the condition is dependent on the immunity of the person to some extent, the period is found to vary from one person to the other. It is found that flu lasts for a longer time in case of children, babies and old people, as they have a weak immune system. Also, if a person does not take medications or rest, flu can persist for a longer time, and may even result in complications. Therefore, it is advisable to undertake immediate treatment. If the typical symptoms are accompanied with other symptoms like nausea, vomiting, etc., it is wise to consult the doctor immediately.

One should remember that influenza is highly contagious, and can be easily spread from one person to the other. The virus transmits from the affected person to the healthy one through airborne transmission. The disease can be spread if one comes in contact with the bodily fluids of the infected person. It is also advised not to touch or use personal articles like handkerchief, towels, toothbrush, etc., of people suffering from this infection.

Treatment
The typical treatment for flu consists of taking complete rest and having plenty of fluids. As the infection is caused due to virus, antibiotics prove ineffective in treating it. Most of the time, symptoms subside themselves; but, doctors prescribe medications that help in getting relief from symptoms like fever, headache and body ache. Sometimes, anti-viral drugs are also given for treating flu quickly. Flu is the most contagious for 3-4 days since the time of contraction. Using medication can help in reducing the severity of the symptoms.

Certain home remedies like having ginger tea, chicken soup, etc., also help in treating cough and sore throat. Although all these methods are effective, you should remember that sleep or complete bed rest is the best method to treat viral infections like influenza. Painkillers and paracetamol can be used to treat minor symptoms. It is recommended to take medications only after consulting the doctor.

If suffering from common cold or flu, it is wise to avoid smoking and drinking alcohol, as they worsen the symptoms. On the other hand, babies, children and old people should be vaccinated against flu on a regular basis to prevent it. You can consult the doctor for more information about the flu vaccination.

Lastly, one should remember that flu can be prevented by maintaining good hygiene, and by having a balanced diet.

Disclaimer: This information is to be used only for educational purposes. It is recommended to consult the doctor for proper treatment in case any symptoms of common cold or flu are observed.