Influenza (Flu)

1 What is Influenza (Flu)?

Influenza, commonly known as flu ,is a respiratory tract infection that is caused by viruses. Influenza can occur in any one although complications mostly occur in children, people above the age of 65 , pregnant women and immune compromised people. Most cases do not require treatment. Influenza can be prevented by receiving a seasonal flu vaccine. 

2 Symptoms

The initial symptoms of influenza include:

The common symptoms of flu include:

3 Causes

Viruses are responsible for causing influenza. They spread from person to person through air droplets.

People with flu can be contagious from 5 to 10 days depending on the severity of the flu. Children, people older than 65 and immune compromised individuals are usually contagious for longer periods of time.

Because the viruses that cause influenza are constantly changing, it is necessary to get seasonal vaccinations against influenza.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             

4 Treatment

Getting enough bed rest and taking a lot of fluids can be a very effective treatment for influenza.

In other cases, anti-viral drugs, like oseltamivir (Tamiflu) or zanamivir (Relenza) can be prescribed. These drugs can shorten the duration of flu and prevent the development of complications. Oselmivir is taken orally and zanamivir is inhaled through an inhaler similar to that used by asthma patients.

It is important to note that some viruses have become resistant to these anti-viral drugs.

5 Prevention

Everyone over the age of 6 months is required to receive annual vaccinations in order to prevent influenza.

Each year's seasonal flu vaccine has protection from three or four influenza viruses that are expected to be common during the year.

Taking measures which reduce the spread of viruses that cause influenza can be very helpful. They include:

  • Washing the hands with sanitizer or soap and water frequently.
  • Covering the nose and mouth when sneezing or coughing.
  • Avoiding crowds, since flu spreads easily wherever people congregate.

6 Lifestyle and Coping

Lifestyle modifications are necessary in order to manage the symptoms of influenza (flu).

The following may help relieve the symptoms of influenza:

  • Drinking a lot of fluids like water, juice and warm soups to prevent dehydration.
  • Getting enough rest. This helps the immune system to fight the infection.
  • Taking painkillers like acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB) to relieve pain.

7 Risks and Complications

The factors that increase the risk of having influenza (flu) include:

  • Age, children and older people,
  • Having a weakened immune system,
  • Having chronic illnesses like asthma,heart diseases or  diabetes,
  • Pregnancy,
  • Obesity.                                                                                                                                                          
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