What is Flu? Symptoms, Causes, Treatments, Precautions, etc.

Yes, the chances of getting flu can indeed spike up in the winter season but the actual flu season starts quite early that is in between October and May month. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the virus can be passed on to another person before the symptoms start to show, which means the person with infection is hardly aware that he/she is suffering from flu at the stage of transmission.

Flu is one kind of disease that can start at once without showing much difference; one day you can be fine while the very next day you might not be able to do even a tiny bit of work due to the attack of flu. While the start of flu is also not the same for everyone, some people don’t show symptoms for as long as four days after being exposed to the virus.

Although flu is a common kind of disease, it can prove to be dangerous for young children and people above 65 years of age. If not taken proper care, the complications of flu can scale up and becomes life-threatening. Negligence with any kind of disease can arise due to lack of knowledge about the preventive measures, treatment and cure. This blog brings to you all such information to help you combat flu and take the necessary steps required at the ‘need of the hour’.

What is flu?

Influenza (flu) is a type of viral infection that attacks the respiratory system (throat, nose and lungs). This kind of flu is very much different from the other types of stomach flu viruses that cause vomiting or diarrhoea. Maximum of the cases of flu get better on with time and does not require a person to get admitted to the hospital unless it is a severe case where the flu develops and complications increases.

Flu is super-contagious and can last for 5 days to week duration. This disease gets easily transmitted when an infected person sneezes or coughs. Virus filled droplets are released into the surrounding air and get in the system of another person in the breathing process. The virus can also spread when a healthy person touches the surface where the virus has landed, followed by touching of face, mouth, nose or eyes. Winter season is known to be high with flu virus as people spend more time indoors and are in close touch.

If symptoms are showing in an infected person then he/she must stay away from newborn babies, people suffering from certain chronic diseases and elderly people as people of this age group may not fight back the flu easily.

Symptoms of flu

Symptoms of flu may show up without any kind of major body changes, the symptoms include-

  • Difficulty in breading due to stuffy or runny nose
  • Cough, which is normally dry and persistent
  • Body pain
  • Frequent headaches
  • Vomiting
  • Lack of body energy (tiredness)
  • Fever and chills-fever can raise to a temperature over 100.4 F (38 C)
  • Sweating
  • An extreme level of fatigue
Symptoms of  flu
Symptoms of flu

In the initial stage, the flu may show symptoms that are similar to that of a common cold with the onset of sneezing, runny nose, and sore throat. But the difference in both the diseases is that common cold takes time to develop whereas the flu attacks suddenly.

What are the emergency signs of influenza (flu)?

If a person is showing the following signs then he/she must immediately rush to the doctor to get medical aid as soon as possible-

In children

  • The appearance of bluish colour in the face or lips
  • Acute chest pain
  • Refusal to walk properly due to severe muscle pain
  • Not being alert or a sense of lost
  • Suffering from fever above 104F
  • A fever or cough that heals but appears once again only to get worse
  • Worsening of chronic conditions (if any)
  • Extreme dehydration, which includes not urinating for more than 8 hours, no tears while crying or dry mouth.
  • Ribs pulling in with each breath

In adults

  • Excess muscle pain
  • Seizures
  • Inadequate urine proportion
  • Increasing the complications of chronic medical conditions
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Constant dizziness or inability to arouse
  • Fever
  • Severe unsteadiness or weakness

Causes of flu

Flu is a contagious disease, thus it can be easily transmitted from one person to another in droplets form via air when an infected person coughs, talks, or sneezes. The droplets usually travel from the mouth, nose or eyes. The symptoms of flu usually last for 5 days or more and people with the weak immune system are more prone to get infected and may suffer from it for a longer duration than other healthy people.

Interestingly, influenza is changing and as its progressing new strains of the disease is appearing regularly. Therefore in such a scenario there arises a concern as previous antibiotics that might have the help you to combat the disease will no more assist your body to prevent further damage. New strain influenza(flu) strains that might attack you after overcoming a flu attack will be very much different immunologically from what you had earlier.

When the body is under the attack of flu, the body already has antibiotics to fight it. If the virus is similar to those encountered before, the antibiotics and vaccinated effect will help to reduce the severity of the illness or lessen the duration.

Other kinds of health problems caused by flu

Some patients might develop further complication with flu that can be serious or life-threatening. Some of the health issues are-

  • Pneumonia- infection caused in both the lungs and one of it. It causes shortness of breath, high fever, shaking chills, a cough that gets worse with time, and experiencing chest pain while breathing
  • Sinus infection- sinuses are hollow air spaces within the bones surrounding the nose, in a sinus infection, the sinuses get inflamed.
  • Bronchitis– inflammation in the airways that carries air to the lungs; it causes cough along with mucus, wheezing sound, low fever, and chest tightness.
  • Ear infection- this infection usually affects the middle ear and can affect the quality of hearing as sound cannot travel due to the blockage of the fluid.
  • Inflammation in the heart, muscle tissues or brain

Diagnosis of flu

The first step towards diagnosis starts with knowing about the medical history of the patient followed by the information about the symptoms that have risen. Several tests are conducted to confirm if you have been infected with flu and the severity of it. To continue with the test the patient would have to provide a sample by swiping a tool (a swap) inside the nose or the back part of the throat.

The tests results may be available within a duration of 15 – 20 minutes or a maximum of one to a couple of hours. Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) helps to detect the strains of influenza quite accurately.

What is the difference between the common cold and flu?

Symptoms and Signs Flu Common Cold
Fever Last for 3-4 days Rare
Body aches Common and is often severe Very mild
Chills Fairly common Not common
Weakness Very common Sometimes
Sneezing Sometimes Usual or common
Discomfort in the chest Common and can lead to severe Moderate
Headache Common Rare

The flu can lead to life-threatening complications for a certain group of people which includes-

  • People suffering from extreme obesity
  • Infants and young children under the age of 2 years
  • Pregnant women or women who are up to two weeks of postpartum
  • Patients suffering from chronic diseases
  • People younger than 19 years who have long term aspirin therapy
  • People who assist with care high-risk patients who are suffering from flu; such as pre-school workers, care-takers etc.
  • Race-native Americans
  • Residents of nursing home
  • Cancer patients and cancer survivors
  • People with a weak immune system
  • People who are below the age of 65 years

Although the risk factor can be for any random person and any person can develop severe complications and trigger a secondary infection. The complication can start off as minor one like an ear infection and sinus infection and later lead to worse conditions like heart disease, asthma, and diabetes.

Treatment of flu

Usually, a patient suffering from flu does not require much medical assistance other than bed rest and plenty of fluids or water content to treat the flu. In severe cases, medical aid is a compulsion or fewer situations might get out of control. Doctors might prescribe medications like zanamivir, oseltamivir, peramivir in severe cases to effectively cure the flu and prevent further complications.

There are antiviral drugs which are used to treat flu illness. Such drugs can help to shorten the illness or moderate it and prevent complications that could end up the patient in the hospital. If a child is suffering from flu it is ideal that he/she stays at home and avoid spreading to other children.

Flu vaccines are quite safe and help the body to combat the illness. These vaccines are made using safety measures; flu shots and nasal spray flu vaccines are both good options to get vaccinated. Different kinds of flu vaccines are licensed based on age.

What are the benefits of getting a flu vaccine?

A flu vaccine helps you and your child to avoid the chances of getting attacked by flu; when the vaccine and the virus that attacks shows to match the body shows to cope up more and fights away the flu sooner.

It can also help your child to gain a strong immune system and keep away the severe complications of flu that might lead them to the hospital. Studies reveal that the flu vaccine reduces the risk level by 74%.

The best way to prevent flu is to get the flu vaccine on a yearly basis, along with vaccination it is also important to practice healthy habits such as washing your hands before and after eating food, covering your face while coughing, and use a hand sanitizer, it helps to keep away germs and viruses.

Side-effects of flu

Side effects of flu
Side effects of flu

The side effects of flu do not normally arise from the illness rather the side effects can arise from the flu vaccine. Flu vaccines are made with inactivated flu viruses or with certain vaccines that contain particles of the flu virus. The virus vaccine can cause a slight amount of nasal tissue infection which is enough to stimulate antibody production but the good news is that it won’t cause any other kind of infection that will cause influenza.

How to prevent the flu?

Follow a few basic habits that will help to keep you safe this flu season-

  • Avoid the crowd as much as possible
  • Keep your hands clean and wash them as much as possible
  • Get flu vaccination
  • Keep your surroundings clean and disinfect the areas
  • Eat healthy food, drink lots of water and strengthen your immune system.

FAQs

Que1. Do vitamins protect against flu?

Ans- Vitamin C can help to fight against the flu.

Que2. How can I boost my immune system fast?

Ans- Keep unhealthy habits like smoking, drinking away and try to drink lots and lots of water and get adequate sleep

Que3. What do I eat when I have the flu?

Ans- Add garlic, chicken soup, leafy greens, oatmeal and vitamin C containing fruits to your diet.

Que4. Is milk bad for the flu?

Ans- Yes, milk can be bad for the flu, it is better to avoid it

Que5. Can you get out of the bed with the flu?

Ans- During flu it is quite difficult to get out of the bed

Que6. How long should you stay at home with the flu?

Ans- Stay indoors for at least 24 hours after the fever has gone.

Que7. Can you get the flu twice?

Ans- Yes, as the second flu attack might carry different flu strains.

Que8. When am I no longer contagious with the flu?

Ans- For the duration of at least one week, a person stays contagious with the flu.

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