Influenza, commonly known as the flu, is a respiratory infection that is frequently diagnosed in the winter months. Although many people think that the flu can be treated with antibiotics, influenza is a virus, which means antibiotics will have not to be an effective treatment. Usually, the flu is a mild illness, and it should not have lasting consequences. However, in the high-risk populations, complications can occur, such as pneumonia, bronchitis, and even death. The high-risk populations include infants, young children, the elderly, and those who are immunosuppressed.
The flu is a virus that is spread via droplets, which means drops of the virus are transmitted to another person by coughing or sneezing. If these droplets land in the nose or mouth of an unaffected individual, the chance of infection is high. The virus can also be spread by touching a hard surface that has been contaminated by the virus, although, this is less common. The virus is then transmitted from the contaminated surface by touching the mouth, nose, or eyes. Symptoms of the flu include fever, body aches, muscle stiffness, sore throat, coughing, runny nose, loss of appetite, and headache. While vomiting and diarrhea can occur, those symptoms are more commonly seen in children.
The cold and flu can frequently be confused, and many think it is hard to tell the difference. However, the cold virus will not come on as suddenly, as seen with the flu, and body aches and stiffness are rare with a cold. If symptoms come on quickly, call your doctor to set up an appointment or go to urgent care. Do not go to the hospital for the flu unless you are an at-risk population, or you are starting to experience dehydration symptoms. The flu is diagnosed by a rapid influenza test, which is conducted by swabbing inside your nose. The test results are produced quickly in as little as 10-20 minute, although these tests can provide false positives or false negatives. If the flu is diagnosed, Tamiflu, an antiviral drug, is the recommended treatment option. This particular medication must be started within 24-48 hours of symptoms to be effective. Tamiflu will not instantly cure the flu, but it can decrease the length and severity.
Preventative measures include thorough handwashing, covering your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing, eating a well-rounded, balanced diet, and ultimately, getting the flu vaccine. The flu vaccine is the most effective preventative measure to protect you and your family from the flu. It is important to note that there are different options available so that at-risk populations can still receive the vaccine. However, infants, six months old or younger, and those who have previously experienced an adverse reaction to the vaccine should not be vaccinated. While the flu vaccine does not guarantee that you will not get the flu, it will drastically reduce the chance of acquiring the flu. Protect you and your family this flu season by implementing these preventative measures. Shifa4U physicians are available today to speak with you regarding any questions you may have about the flu or flu vaccine.