Your Body On The Flu

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For the Next Three to Five Days

The only things that can really help you now, antibodies and T cells, are locking on to their targets. You're stuck in bed. If you started taking prescription Tamiflu right away, you might recover a bit faster; otherwise, don't bother with vitamin C or other OTC fix-its. Stick with tons of fluids and rest. (Experts have recently cast doubt on the anti-flu drug. Find out why Tamiflu Might Not Work.)

If you're really unlucky, normally harmless throat bacteria have descended into your lungs to feed on dead cell remnants, putting you at risk for pneumonia.

After About a Week

Assuming you've escaped pneumonia, your immune system finally stamps out the flu virus. Whew. Your inflammation slowly subsides, as do your symptoms. But you may still be contagious for a day or two more—and it may take another week to feel like your normal, healthy self.

Moving Forward

Wash your hands. It's the single best way you can fend off a new flu virus. Scrub your mitts with soap under running water for at least 20 seconds after shaking hands with people or touching communal stuff like a bathroom stall.

Sources: David Greenberg, M.D., Sanofi Pasteur; Walter Orenstein, M.D., Emory University School of Medicine; Flor Munoz, M.D., Baylor College of Medicine; William Schaffner, M.D., Vanderbilt University School of Medicine

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More from Women's Health:

9 Nutrition-Boosting Food Pairings

Stress-Relieving Yoga Poses

Cold Or Flu: Can You Tell?

The Women's Health Daily Dose: Must-Know Health Advice

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