The Flu and Your Body: Everything You Never Wanted to Know (But Need to)

The Flu and Your Body: Everything You Never Wanted to Know (But Need to)

Flu season runs from October to May and each year it impacts millions of Americans. The flu virus attacks the respiratory system and its symptoms include headache, sore throat, fever, chills, vomiting, dry cough, and muscle aches. But what does it do to your body? What does your body look like on the flu?

Read more about fevers and over-the-counter fever medicine

A sick person sneezes, coughs, or just expels thousands of droplets of the flu virus and for the unlucky victim, inhaling them up the nasal passages can mean the beginning of infection. The flu virus can embed within the cells of your airways and while colds attack your nose and throat, the flu virus travels to your lungs. The outside of each virus is covered with what amounts to keys, and if these keys fit into the locks that blanket your cells, it’s allowed to enter the cell. Once inside the cell, the virus begins to multiply, starting from one and multiplying into millions.

Your immune system starts to put up a fight, producing millions of T cells to destroy the virus. Hopefully this shuts the virus down but in some cases it begins to burst at the seams, sending the virus everywhere. At this point, you’re contagious.

By about day 4 you begin to deal with symptoms like fever, chills, headache, etc. It’s not the flu virus that makes you feel sick, rather, it’s your body’s reaction to it – inflammation. All of your body’s energy is also being used by your immune system to fight the flu.

After about a week your body begins to take control of the flu and the inflammation slowly diminishes. At this point you’re still contagious for at least a few more days. In order to stop its spread, be vigilant about washing your hands with warm soap and water.

Most people will start to feel better after about a week. But you should see a doctor if your flu symptoms seem to be getting worse not better or if you have trouble breathing or develop other complications like a sinus infection. Consider seeing a doctor if you have other medical conditions like diabetes, heart problems, asthma, or other lung problems

Read more about preventing illness before it hits home

[A note from Andrea Donsky, founder of When anyone in my family comes down with a cold or flu, I always reach for  P-73 oregano oil, colloidal silver, and homeopathic remedies (like Oscillo).]

Image: Sodanie Chea

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Sara Novak specializes in health and food policy writing for Discovery Health. Her work has also been featured on TreeHugger,, TLC Cooking, and Animal Planet. After graduating from the Grady School of Journalism at the University of Georgia, Sara headed up the communication efforts for a national scholarship program in Washington, D.C. Sara has also handled copy writing and public relations for a global environmental consulting firm. She loves fiddling with healthful recipes, traveling, and exploring life atop her yoga mat. Today, Sara lives in Charleston with her husband and two lovable cocker spaniels, Madison and Bella.