Flu- Symptoms, Causes, Prevention, and Treatment
Here is a detailed account of the flu. It will help you understand:
- Causes of Flu
- Flu Symptoms
- Influenza Prevention
- Influenza Treatment
Causes of Flu
Having a sneeze once a while is healthy. However what if you are facing a situation where you are subjected to continuous health issues arising from nasal complications. This post will provide you with a complete know-how on what is a flu, what are its symptoms, causes, treatments and most importantly- how can you easily distinguish between a flu and a cold.
The flu is contagious, which means that it can easily spread from person to person. The viruses that cause influenza are spread mainly through nasal secretions in the form of droplets projected by fits of coughing or sneezing. People who inhale the airborne virus are at risk of infection. The virus can survive on some surfaces for up to 24 hours.
This means in some cases that the flu can be spread by contact when someone touches a surface (e.g., doorknob, countertops, and phones) where the virus has been deposited and touches their mouth, nose, or eyes. The flu spreads in crowded places like schools and offices, most easily.
Symptoms of influenza appear between one and four days after exposure to the virus. In general appear suddenly:
- Fever, Cough & Muscle pain
- Headache, Sore Throat & Chills
- Loss of Appetite
- Runny or Stuffy Nose
- Nausea and vomiting
Other symptoms to watch out for in children:
As a parent, you know your child best. Visit your doctor immediately if you notice any of the following symptoms:
- Does not drink or eat as usual
- Irritability, refusal to play or be held
- Period of contagion
People at Risk
Who is affected by the flu? What are the risk factors?
- Very young children, because they have a weak immune system. If they attend daycare (which implies that they are in contact with other children), their risk of contracting the flu increases.
- People in contact with young children, such as their parents or educators, are also at risk.
- Pregnant women are less resistant to the virus, especially in the second half of their pregnancy.
- The elderly are another group at risk, especially if they live in homes, as epidemics are rife in these centers. The elderly are also those for whom influenza is most likely to be fatal.
- Healthcare workers are particularly exposed to contagion, given their frequent and prolonged contact with individuals potentially carrying the virus.
- Those with chronic respiratory disease or cardiovascular disease are a risk group. This is also the case for people with HIV, diabetes, chronic anemia, and liver or kidney disease patients.
- People whose lifestyles tend to weaken their immune systems are more likely to get the flu. A lack of sleep or a poor diet can, therefore, predispose to it.
- Smokers are more at risk.
- People who are anxious or under severe stress may be at higher risk.
- Certain drugs or treatments weaken immunity and therefore make it more susceptible to viruses, including influenza. This is particularly the case with immunosuppressive drugs, chemotherapy treatments, and antibiotics.
- Suppose the flu mainly affects northern populations during the cold season. In that case, it is probably due to the dry air, which weakens the mucous membranes and the confinement inside houses, promoting contagion.
Diagnosis of Flu
Since the flu symptoms are different from those of the common cold, the diagnosis can be made quickly. Your doctor can tell that you have the flu if they see some or most of the following symptoms:
- General body aches and soreness, but more marked in the back and legs
- A runny nose or difficulty breathing in the nose
- Extreme fatigue
- High fever
- Sore throat
- Severe headaches
- Nausea and possibly vomiting
- A feeling of cooking in the thorax
- A dry cough, which then produces sputum
If in doubt, your doctor can make sure it is flu by taking a sputum sample and testing it for the virus. But this step is rarely necessary.
During the flu season, especially if there is an epidemic, it is recommended to focus on preventing falling victim to the flu.
- Hygiene is an essential component of basic prevention. We wash our hands regularly, especially if we go to public places.
- As much as possible, if there is an epidemic, we flee the closed places that gather a lot of people (metro, cinemas, etc.).
- We stay away from people we know to be infected until their symptoms are completely gone.
- A healthy lifestyle helps strengthen the immune system: a good diet, moderate alcohol consumption, regular and sufficient hours of sleep, physical activity, and a low level of stress will help protect you.
- Consuming ginseng appears to have positive effects on strengthening the immune system.
- The vaccine against influenza should be administered before the flu season to be effective.
- Since the influenza virus evolves, the vaccine must also be rethought each year, partly explaining the varying efficacy rates.
- Since 2010, you can receive a vaccine without a needle by spraying. Although it is effective, it is not suitable for everyone, and one must obtain a prescription to receive it due to the many contraindications.
The usual treatment for influenza is to rest and take plenty of fluids.
Treatment also includes ways to prevent the spread of the influenza virus, such as washing your hands well, cleaning surfaces shared by everyone, and using good coughing or sneezing technique (in your arm or sneeze).
It may be helpful to use medications for specific symptoms, for example, cough suppressants, and ibuprofen or acetaminophen may be used to treat flu-related symptoms such as muscle pain and fever.
Children and adolescents with influenza should not take acetylsalicylic acid (ASA). The use of ASA during influenza has been linked to Reye’s syndrome, a rare but serious disorder that affects the brain and liver.
Many over-the-counter medicines contain ASA or other salicylates.
Antiviral drugs are also used to prevent the flu for people who have been in close contact with flu victims, such as those who live in the same home.
Only influenza antibodies can prevent the flu. Infection and vaccination are the only ways to generate antibodies. Since influenza viruses can change from year to year, the vaccination should be repeated every year.
It is important to remember that all flu shots take two weeks before they start to protect a person, so get the shot as soon as possible.
The vaccine’s effectiveness may vary from year to year; the risk of getting the flu is therefore not entirely zero, but the symptoms may be milder.
The vaccine must be given to all people considered to be at increased risk of complications from influenza, to people who could infect those at high risk (e.g., caregivers, healthcare workers), to people who provide essential services for the community, and finally to all those who wish to avoid contracting the flu.
The hysterectomy does not guarantee the final disappearance of the symptoms, as endometriosis may occur “spontaneously” in other parts of the body.
It is essential to see a doctor early when symptoms of endometriosis develop because the earlier the disease is diagnosed, the better it is treated. It also decreases the risk of infertility.
You should know that the above-mentioned symptoms may indicate another disorder of the reproductive system, the presence of ovarian cysts, for example. A pelvic ultrasound will detect them quickly.
Flu Symptoms vs. Cold Symptoms
Know that the symptoms for cold and flu are quite similar and sometimes a person can easily confuse one from the other. Don’t worry though; we will do a breakdown for you to determine which symptoms signify which one:
*Fever – If you have a constant fever for more than 3 days which subsides when taking medication but after a few hours, its back again, you are more likely suffering from flu. It is not likely to have such a long-lasting fever with a cold only.
*Body Aches- these aches are common with both but they are extremely mild with a cold however when it comes to a flu, the body aches become severe and they are more continuous and longer lasting.
*Chills– this is one of the most common ways in which a doctor determines what you might be facing from. Where with flu, they come and go frequently. It is highly unlikely you will get them with a mild cold.
*Fatigue. This is common with the flu. In fact you would feel extremely drained with very low energy levels. With a cold, the fatigue usually sets in only with patients who are aged and don’t have strong immunity.
*Sneezing frequently- It is more common to sneeze frequently in a flu. A cold though keeps you more clogged up.
*Chest discomfort- Since you are more likely to cough often with a flu, this leads to more chest discomfort.
*Stuffy nose– a nose is more stuffed up with a cold. However this isn’t as common in a flu.
*Sore throat– having a harsh and hoarse throat itch is more common in a cold as compared to a flu.
*Headaches-you are more likely to have constant headaches with a flu but when it comes to a cold, headaches isn’t that common.
Bear in Mind!!
People who should not get a flu shot are children under six months of age or people with a history of an allergic reaction to a flu shot. Have a brief overview on your family conditions and where do you stand.
Flu shots need to be administered properly. Also you need to provide a complete intel on what allergies you might have to your healthcare provider.
Be sure to tell your healthcare professional if you have an egg allergy or any other allergy before giving you your flu shot.
You can lessen the risk of catching the flu by washing your hands regularly with soap and lukewarm water or massaging them with an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Make it a constant habit.
Also, cough or sneeze into a tissue, if you don’t have one, use your sleeve. Throw away the tissue without delay.
If you are experiencing flu-like symptoms, stay home, do not go to work or school, and avoid being around people for whom the flu could cause complications (e.g., seniors, residents of a nursing home).