Flu/Influenza: Symptoms, causes, Treatment & Prevention

Flu/Influenza: Symptoms, causes, Treatment & Prevention

Hasn’t the weather drastically changed in the last few days? With cold winds sweeping in, the day feels cool and the nights are unusually cold. Have you been watching the news recently?  The whole of North India is drowned in the snow, quite an unusual weather for the end of January. Such unusual weather conditions are enough for spreading influenza virus.

Influenza is a viral infection that is also commonly called flu. It is contagious and if one member of the family has contracted the virus, chances are that the ones in close contact with the infected person will also get contaminated in a few days through sneezes and coughs. Inhaling this airborne virus gets them infected.

Those who are at a higher risk of developing flu complications are:

  • Young children under 2 years of age
  • Older adults above 65 years
  • Pregnant women and women who are just 2 weeks postpartum
  • People having a weakened immune system
  • Those admitted to hospitals and healthcare facilities for long
  • People suffering from chronic illnesses like bronchitis, asthma, lung infection, diabetes, and heart disease
  • People who are extremely obese

What are the first signs of influenza?

The symptoms of flu gradually develop over time and the initial symptoms are just that of a common cold. While colds develop slowly, flu comes all of a sudden. However, the symptoms of flu are much worse than cold:

  • Mild to moderate fever (above 100.4 F)
  • Fatigue/weakness
  • Cold and cough
  • Sore throat
  • Headache
  • Aching muscles and joints
  • Chills and sweats
  • Nasal congestion

Is it a cold or the flu… How to know?

If you are unwilling to get off bed due to muscle ache, cold, sneezes, running nose and feeling feverish, how do you know if you have caught a cold or you are having the flu? It is therefore important that you know that difference between a common cold and flu.

Cold symptoms make you feel sick with a sore throat and runny nose for a few days, but if you have flu, you will feel weak for a few days to a few weeks. If the viral infection is extreme, it can lead to pneumonia and hospitalization.  While cold does not have any signs of fever, flu is usually characterized by a high fever above 102 f and lasts for a good 3 to 4 days fluctuating in between. If you have flu, you could feel extreme fatigue.

Read more: How to protect yourself from seasonal flu

When to see a doctor?

Recognize these emergency signs of flu infection and call for immediate medical attention.

For children:

  • Fever above 102 F
  • Difficulty breathing/fast breathing
  • Passed out/not interacting
  • Bluish skin colour
  • Not drinking enough fluids
  • Fever with rash
  • Fever returning with higher temperature and worse cough

Read more: Habits to teach kids to keep them away from influenza

For adults:

  • Trouble breathing
  • Dizziness
  • Pain or heaviness in chest and abdomen
  • Confusion
  • Persistent vomiting

Treatment and prevention of flu:

Influenza is a viral infection, so antibiotics won’t work. Anti-viral medication, pain relievers are enough to treat influenza. You can also do some home remedies to get rid of influenza fast:

  • Stay at home till you feel better
  • Drink enough water and fluids (especially orange juice)
  • Avoid contact with other people
  • Stay warm and eat warm foods
  • Avoid alcohol and smoking 

You can prevent the flu by practicing good hygiene habits and taking the yearly flu shot. Every year researchers determine what strain of flu will be most active and vaccines are produced accordingly.

However, some people still get the flu even after getting the shot. How is it possible? There is a possibility of contracting the strain of virus that might be slightly different from what is in the seasonal vaccine already.



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