The flu is an incredibly common and highly contagious respiratory illness. The influenza virus causes it, and its symptoms can range from mild to severe. Fever, headaches, body aches, coughing, and a congested or runny nose are common signs of a flu infection that you should watch out for. And if you have underlying health conditions or are pregnant, you’re more vulnerable to serious complications from the flu.
To put it simply – it’s best to take preventive measures whenever possible. Getting your annual flu shot is the most effective way to protect yourself against this virus, as it gives your immune system a headstart in preparing itself against any potential threats. Even if you don’t get sick with the flu, the protection from vaccination will help stop the spread of disease in our community. So stay safe – get vaccinated!
What is The Flu (influenza)
Influenza, commonly known as the flu, is a very contagious respiratory illness caused by the influenza virus. Typical symptoms associated with the flu include head and body aches, sore throat, fever, and general respiratory issues. These symptoms can range from mild to severe, depending on your overall health and other factors.
The peak season for the flu typically happens during winter when large numbers of people are susceptible to contracting it at once – creating epidemics. It is important to note that while there are preventative measures you can take to reduce the risk of getting influenza, such as getting vaccinated or wearing a mask in public places, these will not completely protect you if you come in contact with someone who has contracted the virus.
How Common is The Flu?
The flu is a highly contagious infectious disease that affects millions yearly. In the United States, it’s estimated that between 20 and 40 million people are affected by the flu each season. That’s an incredible number, showing how widespread the virus is.
Moreover, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention note that between 140 thousand and 810 thousand hospitalizations occur due to the flu each year in America alone. This only proves that even if you think you have mild symptoms of influenza, it’s best to take proper care of your body by getting vaccinated and seeking medical advice when necessary.
What is The Difference Between The Flu and the Common Cold?
It’s no secret that the flu and cold can bring similar symptoms, such as a runny nose and cough. However, when it comes down to the details, these illnesses are very different. Symptoms of a cold tend to be milder than the flu, which can range from severe to dangerous for your health.
The key difference between these two illnesses is their originating viruses: while several types of viruses cause common colds, the influenza virus is responsible for causing the flu. Awareness of this distinction can make all the difference in understanding how serious or minor your illness is during each season.
How do I Know if I Have The Flu or COVID-19?
If you’re wondering how to tell the difference between Influenza (or the flu) and COVID-19, one surefire way is to get tested. Both illnesses have similar symptoms, but two different viruses cause them, requiring two different kinds of medication to be treated.
It’s important to note that both illnesses can be serious, so you must make an appointment with your doctor or contact a local testing center if you think you may have either condition. Your doctor or healthcare provider will guide what test is necessary for diagnosis.
By getting tested, you can know if you are suffering from the flu or COVID-19, allowing you to get the right treatment and start feeling better soon.
Who is at Higher Risk for Complications From The Flu?
Those with certain health conditions are at a higher risk of developing complications from the flu, including life-threatening conditions requiring hospitalization. Suppose you have asthma, COPD, or any other chronic lung disease, diabetes, or a weakened immune system (HIV/AIDS, cancer, or immunosuppressive medications). In that case, you may be more prone to severe complications should you contract the flu. Elderly people (over 65 years old) and individuals under five may also be in danger of developing serious symptoms due to their weaker immune systems and inability to fight off infection.
Moreover, people with kidney, liver, and heart diseases such as sickle cell disease; those with a BMI greater than 40; pregnant women; those under 19 years old who take aspirin regularly; as well as residents of long-term care facilities will all fall into the high-risk category for severe complications from influenza. Furthermore, studies show that non-Hispanic Black people, non-Hispanic American Indians, and Alaska Native people, as well as Hispanic or Latino people, tend to experience more flu-related difficulties compared to non-White and non-Asian ethnicities.
Symptoms of The Flu?
When it comes to influenza, we all need to know the symptoms. The flu usually comes on suddenly and can have various unpleasant effects. Fever, chills, body aches, coughing, headaches, sore throats, runny or stuffy noses (congestion), extreme tiredness, and feeling run down are signs of you having the flu.
In some cases, diarrhea or vomiting can occur, too – though this is more common among children than adults. Suppose you’re exhibiting any of these signs or symptoms. In that case, you likely have the flu and should consider seeing a doctor for confirmation and advice on what treatment options are available.
What Causes The Flu
When it comes to understanding what causes the flu, it all boils down to the influenza virus. Influenza A, B, and C are the most common types that cause infection among people. Influenza A and B are seasonal, meaning they tend to be more prevalent during winter months with more severe symptoms. On the other hand, Influenza C isn’t as severe in its effects, and its prevalence remains constant throughout the year.
Furthermore, H1N1 (“swine flu”) and bird flu fall under subtypes of influenza A, making them just as contagious and hazardous to human health as any other type of influenza virus. So if you’re ever wondering what’s causing your aches and pains this time of year, it can be attributed to this virus!
How is The Flu Diagnosed?
When it comes to diagnosing the flu, your healthcare provider has a few ways that they can confirm its presence. As part of their initial assessment, they will listen to your symptoms and then take a sample of mucus from your nose using a special swab. This swab is composed of a long stick with a soft tip and can quickly identify if you have the flu, usually within just a few minutes.
In some cases, however, providers may send this sample away to an external lab for further testing, which can take a day or two until you receive the results. Regardless of which method is used, your healthcare provider should be able to accurately diagnose whether or not you have influenza and what kind of treatment needs to be administered as soon as possible.
How is The Flu Treated?
When it comes to treating influenza, there are a few options for people. One of the most effective ways to treat the flu is through antiviral medications, which healthcare professionals in certain cases, can prescribe. These medications can help reduce your risk of severe illness and help get you better faster.
Antivirals can be prescribed if you have had symptoms for less than 48 hours, have an underlying condition, or are at risk for severe illness. Healthcare providers may also prescribe antivirals even if you’ve had symptoms for longer than 48 hours because of severe symptoms or if you live with someone at risk for serious complications from the flu.
Other ways to treat the flu include resting, drinking plenty of fluids, and taking over-the-counter medications like ibuprofen or acetaminophen to reduce fever and aches. In extreme cases, hospitalization may be necessary. It’s important to talk to your healthcare provider to determine the best treatment plan for your situation.
What Medications Treat The Flu?
A few antiviral medications are available if you’re looking for an effective way to treat the flu. Oseltamivir phosphate, commonly known as Tamiflu®, is taken orally in either pill or liquid form. You will usually have to take it for several days to see results.
Another drug that can be used is Zanamivir, branded as Relenza®, which you take through your mouth with an inhaler. However, zanamivir isn’t recommended for people with breathing difficulties such as asthma and COPD.
Peramivir, a brand named Rapivap®, is given directly into the veins with an IV and typically requires just one dose. Lastly, baloxavir marboxil (Xofluza®), also taken orally, requires only one single dose of treatment; However, this medication isn’t recommended if you’re pregnant, breastfeeding, hospitalized or suffering from certain medical conditions.
You must inform your provider about any health issues you have before beginning any of these medications so that they can determine what’s best for you and your condition!
How Do I Manage The Symptoms of The Flu?
If you have the flu, you can take plenty of steps at home to manage your symptoms. Of course, speaking to your healthcare provider is always important if you are unsure about any of these treatments or their interactions with other medications.
Getting plenty of rest is key when dealing with the flu – this helps boost your immune system and gives it a better chance of fighting off the virus! Drinking lots of fluids (water or broth) is also vital, as dehydration can worsen symptoms. Applying heat packs or hot water bottles can reduce body aches while taking acetaminophen (Tylenol®) or NSAIDs (Advil®, Motrin®, Aleve®)can help lower fever and soothe headaches and muscle pain. It’s important not to give aspirin to children under 16 without a healthcare provider’s approval.
If you’re struggling with a stuffy/runny nose, spray or oral decongestants like phenylephrine or pseudoephedrine may provide relief. You could also try cough suppressants (antitussives) such as dextromethorphan for nagging coughs and expectorants like guaifenesin for mucus build-up in your lungs.
By following these tips, you should be able to find relief from flu symptoms and get back to feeling 100% again soon!
How Can I Prevent The Flu?
Keeping the Flu at Bay is easy if you know how! The best way to avoid any harm from the influenza virus is to get vaccinated yearly. Vaccines help your immune system recognize and fight off the virus before it can make you sick. This needs to be kept up-to-date because the Influenza virus tends to change each year, so it’s important to get a new vaccination every year.
Your provider can give you this vaccine in either a shot or a mist they spray into your nose. Additionally, you should take precautions such as washing your hands often with soap and water or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, covering your nose and mouth when sneezing or coughing, avoiding being around many people if either of you is sick, wearing a mask if necessary, avoiding touching your face, eyes, nose, and mouth and not sharing utensils with others. If we all take these steps together, we can reduce our risk of contracting and spreading the flu!