Influenza is a respiratory illness caused by viral infection. People generally refer to it as “flu”. It is highly contagious and spreads through the sneeze or cough of an infected person. Although it is unpleasant, it is not life-threatening. Flu outbreaks generally occur in late fall and winter. As the symptoms appear after a couple of days, there are chances of you passing the flu to others even before you know it.
Influenza viruses A and B are the main cause of flu. But different strains of this virus keeps appearing every year.
Headache, dry cough, fever, body ache and a sore throat are the symptoms of influenza. You may also experience tiredness and feel less hungry than normal. The symptoms will be worse for initial 3 to 4 days. However, it will take 1 to 2 weeks to get better completely. Also the symptoms will start to appear after 1 to 4 days from the initial contact with the virus.
In most of the cases, people will get better without further problems. But in some, influenza can give rise to bacterial infections like a sinus infection, bronchitis or an ear infection. In rare cases, it may cause more serious problem like pneumonia. Young children, older adults, pregnant women and people suffering from long-term illness or with weak immune system are at a higher risk of problems due to flu.
Your doctor will do a physical examination and ask you about your symptoms as part of influenza diagnosis. In some cases, to find out the type of the influenza virus, your doctor may ask for a blood test or take a fluid sample from your nose or throat.
Treatment For Influenza
Influenza symptoms are curable at home by resting, drinking lots of fluids and taking medication for fever. If people have any severe symptoms or have the chances of getting pneumonia, they may need to go the hospital for treatment. Otherwise, the flu infection may worsen your existing health condition. Your doctor will give medicines that will make the symptoms milder. It is best to take medicines within 2 days of appearance of flu symptoms.
Getting a shot of flu vaccine every year helps to prevent influenza. Flu vaccine comes in a spray which you can breathe in through your nose or as a shot. The US Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommends everyone from 6 months old to older people to get this vaccine. The flu vaccine is particularly important for people at higher risk of problems due to flu like young children, adult aged 50 and above, pregnant women and people with impaired immune system or long-term health problems.
Healthcare workers and people who live or work with a person with higher risk of problems from influenza have to get the vaccine. In most cases, the vaccine helps to prevent flu. Even if you get flu after getting the vaccine, the symptoms will only be milder and you will have less chance of problems due to flu. There is no way you can get influenza from the vaccine.