In this photo, a man covers his face while sneezing near one of the garden show pieces at the Chelsea Flower Show in London, May 24, 2004. Getty Images/Jim Watson/AFP

Flu, caused by the influenza virus, is a contagious illness that affects the throat, nose and sometimes the lungs in different degrees of severity. If unaddressed, it can lead to complications like pneumonia and even death.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the best way to combat flu and prevent it from affecting you and your loved ones is vaccination.

Flu is often equated to having colds, though the latter is milder and usually stays for just three days. Colds, characterized by a stuffy or runny nose, do not usually lead to bacterial infections or hospital admissions. It can be challenging to tell flu from a common cold at first look. The main differences between them include fever, body aches, chills and headache — all of which describe the flu. Influenza is also associated with chest discomfort and cough.

How long does flu last? A flu bout usually lasts one to two weeks, though the severe symptoms last up to three days, says Everyday Health. After that, you can expect to still feel the other symptoms such as dry cough, fatigue and weakness.

Dos and Don’ts of Dealing With Flu

1. Don’t ask for antibiotics

Flu is caused by a virus and antibiotics will not kill viruses. This is a common mistake among self-medicators. An antibiotic is useless when you have the flu. What you can take, depending on your doctor’s prescription, are antiviral medications. You can’t expect to feel better in an instant unlike when you use antibiotics but they can help reduce the degree of severity, so you can get back to optimal health faster.

2. Do rest and stay home

Flu is a contagious disease and it’s not safe for everyone else around you if you keep showing up for work or school. Also, flu makes your body weak, so take it as an opportunity to give yourself time to recuperate and recharge.

3. Don’t always assume that you have the flu

Again, colds are different from the actual flu. Many also mistake a stomach virus for it. If the illness involves diarrhea and vomiting, it’s not flu but a stomach bug. This will require a different intervention.

4. Do drink plenty of water

Aside from the comfort it brings, staying hydrated will help your body recover faster.

Not all flu cases require hospitalization. However, if you or your child feel chest pains, difficulty breathing, sudden dizziness, lethargy and confusion, that’s when you need to seek immediate medical help.