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The flu, or influenza, is caused by a virus that infects the respiratory system. Though colds are also caused by viruses, the symptoms of the two illnesses have some differences. The flu is much more likely to be accompanied by fever, headache and extreme exhaustion.

The CDC recommends that people ages 6 months and older receive the flu vaccine each year. Vaccination is especially important for people who are at high risk for serious flu complications. This includes:

  • Young children
  • Pregnant women
  • People with chronic health conditions like asthma, diabetes or heart and lung disease
  • People 50 years and older

To learn more about flu, visit the Flu health topic center. You can also find out more at these websites:

  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  • National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases

Most people get over the flu without any problems, but occasionally the flu can turn into something more serious. According to CDC, adults should seek urgent medical attention if they have symptoms such as:

  • Trouble breathing or shortness of breath
  • Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
  • Sudden dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Severe or persistent vomiting

Children need urgent medical attention if they have symptoms such as:

  • Fast breathing or trouble breathing
  • Bluish skin color
  • Not waking up or interacting
  • Not drinking enough fluids
  • Being so irritable that they don't want to be held
  • Fever with a rash

Both adults and children should seek urgent medical attention if symptoms improve but then return with a fever and a worsened cough.