The flu is a respiratory infection that spreads easily. It is caused by the influenza virus.
This virus circulates each year in Québec and elsewhere in the world. In Québec, it mostly 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, which appear suddenly, and their severity, can vary depending on age and health condition. The main symptoms are the following:
Symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pain may also be experienced. These symptoms are most common in children.
Seniors may feel weak and disoriented without showing other symptoms.
The flu is often confused with other respiratory infections such as the cold. To learn more, read Differences between Flu and Cold.
Generally, the flu can be treated at home. In certain cases however, you must see a doctor.
You should seek medical help the same day if you have flu-like symptoms and also one of the following:
If symptoms worsen or do not improve after 7 days, you should also consult a doctor the same day.
You must go to emergency immediately if you have flu-like symptoms and also one of the following:
If your baby is less than 3 months old and has a fever, bring him or her to emergency immediately.
If your child has a fever and appears very sick, lacks energy and refuses to play, bring him or her to a doctor immediately, or call Info-Santé 8-1-1.
If you require immediate help to get to emergency, call 9-1-1.
Some situations require you to be evaluated by a nurse who can offer specific advice regarding your condition. The nurse can also assess whether or not you should see a doctor immediately.
You should call Info-Santé 8-1-1 if you or your child are in one of the following situations:
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 him or her 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.
The following people are most at risk of complications:
If you or your child are among people most at risk of complications and have symptoms of the flu, call Info-Santé 8-1-1. A nurse will evaluate your health and make recommendations based on your condition.
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 the illness to them.
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: December 2, 2015 9:48 AM
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.