The flu is a respiratory infection that is spread easily. It is caused by the influenza virus.
This virus circulates each year in Québec and elsewhere in the world. In Québec, 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 and 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.
Flu is often confused with other respiratory infections such as the cold. For more on this, see Differences between Flu and Cold.
Generally, the flu can be treated at home. In certain cases however, you must see a doctor.
If you are in a group of people at high risk of complications and have flu-like symptoms, please call Info-Santé 8-1-1 to get your health condition evaluated by a nurse. Based on your condition, the nurse will give you instructions to follow.
You should seek medical help the same day if you have flu-like symptoms and have one of the following symptoms:
You must go to an emergency room immediately if you have flu-like symptoms and also one of the following symptoms:
If your child has a fever and seems very sick, lacks energy and refuses to play, promptly take them to a doctor.
Should you require immediate help, 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, you may take over the counter medicine (non-prescription medicine) to relieve fever and pain. Examples of such medicine is acetaminophen, Tylenol® for example, and ibuprophen, Advil® for example.
Avoid taking medications that include the same ingredients together. For example, you should not take Tylenol® and Tylenol® Sinus together because they both 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, following instructions on the product label and according to your child’s weight.
Avoid giving children and adolescents acetylsalicylic acid such as Aspirin®. Indeed, it has been observed that intake of this medication by children and adolescents with flu can lead to the development of Reye's Syndrome, a serious disease of the brain and liver.
The flu can lead to certain complications:
For people considered more vulnerable to sickness, certain complications can lead to hospitalization or even death.
People at high risk of complications are among following:
The flu virus lives best in fresh and dry areas. It can survive for up to 2 days on contaminated objects.
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:
However, the risk of infection is higher during the first 3 or 4 days after the onset of symptoms.
If you have the flu, avoid direct contact as much as possible with people at high 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: October 24, 2013 2:20 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.