The flu is a respiratory infection that is spread easily. It is caused by the influenza virus.
This virus circulates each year in Quebec and elsewhere in the world. In Quebec, it especially spreads during the end of the fall to the beginning of the spring.
The duration of the flu season may vary. As such, it may start earlier or later and last shorter or longer depending on the year.
Flu symptoms that set in suddenly, as well as their severity, can vary depending on age and health condition. The main symptoms are the following:
Children can also experience nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pains.
Older people may feel weak and disoriented without showing other symptoms.
Flu is often confused with other respiratory infections such as the cold. To learn more, go to the Differences between Flu and Cold page.
Generally, the flu can be treated at home. In certain cases however, you must see a doctor.
If you are among people most at risk of complications and have flu-like symptoms, call Info-Santé 8-1-1. A nurse will evaluate your health and make recommendation based on your condition.
You should seek medical help the same day if you have flu-like symptoms and also one of the following:
You must go to emergency immediately if you have flu-like symptoms and also one of the following:
If your child has a fever and appears very sick, lacks energy and refuses to play, promptly take them to a doctor.
If you require immediate help to get to emergency, call 9-1-1.
Most people in good health get better from the flu by themselves after 5 to 7 days. You should get good rest and eat according to your appetite.
However, coughing and fatigue may last for 2 weeks or even longer.
You may relieve symptoms of the flu by taking the following measures:
If you have a fever, your body naturally loses a lot of fluid, especially through sweating. It is therefore important to drink a lot and often.
In the absence of complications or risk factors, treatment of the flu requires no prescription medication. However, to relieve fever and pain, you may take over-the-counter medicine such as acetaminophen, Tylenol® for example, and ibuprophen, Advil® for example.
Avoid taking medication that includes identical ingredients at the same time. For instance, do not take Tylenol® and Tylenol® Sinus together because both these medicines contain acetaminophen.
In certain cases, your doctor may prescribe antiviral medicine to reduce the duration and severity of your symptoms. This type of medication is most effective when taken at the onset of an infection.
If your child is over 3 months old and has a fever, you may give them acetaminophen such as Tylenol®, following instructions given and according to your child’s weight.
Avoid giving children and adolescents acetylsalicylic acid such as aspirin. Such medication can lead to a serious disease of the brain and liver known as ‘Reye's Syndrome’ in children and adolescents with the flu.
The flu can lead to certain complications, including:
For people considered more vulnerable to sickness, certain complications can lead to hospitalisation or even death.
People most at risk of complications are the following:
The flu virus lives best in fresh and dry areas. It can live up to 2 days on contaminated objects or up to 5 minutes on skin.
The flu virus is very contagious. It is spread quickly from person to person in the following ways:
A person infected with flu virus may be contagious:
Young children and seniors can be contagious for up to 14 days following onset of symptoms.
If you have the flu, avoid direct contact as much as possible with people most at risk of complications. This way, you reduce the risk of transmitting to them the illness.
The best way to protect yourself from complications of the flu is through vaccination.
Certain protection and cleanliness measures can also help prevent transmission of the flu.
Last update: September 24, 2015 1:59 PM
The information on this website by no means replaces the advice of a health professional. If you have questions regarding your health, contact Info-Santé 8-1-1 or see a health professional.