The flu, short for influenza, is a contageous virus that is most often passed around during the winter season. Symptoms can include fever, fatigue, congestion or runny nose, cough, body aches, headache, sore throat and lack of appetite, and usually go away in about two weeks.
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Typically, a diagnosis of flu is made based on symptoms, although a doctor may conduct laboratory tests too. Treating the flu usually does not require prescription medications or doctor visits. People with strong immune systems can recover at home by getting plenty of rest, staying hydrated and using over-the-counter drugs to treat pain and fever. For more serious cases of flu, a doctor might prescribe antiviral drugs.
The best treatment for flu is prevention by getting a flu vaccination, which is widely available. Vaccines are good for a year and are recommended for anyone who is vulnerable to more serious flu complications. The vaccine is safe and greatly reduces the risk for getting the flu.
Although effective, the vaccine is not a guarantee. So it is wise to take a few simple precautions. Frequent hand washing reduces chances of infection. Also, because the flu virus becomes airborne by coughing and sneezing, avoiding groups of people will lessen the chance of catching the virus.