Lifestyle | Health
Influenza is a viral infection that attacks your respiratory system, your nose, throat and lungs. Most people who get the flu can treat themselves at home and often do not need to see a doctor. If you have flu symptoms and are at risk of complications, see your doctor right away.
For most people, influenza heals itself. But sometimes, influenza and its complications can be deadly. People at higher risk of developing flu complications include:
It usually presents as a common cold with a runny nose, sneezing and sore throat. Other common signs and symptoms include:
When someone with flu coughs, sneezes, laughs or talks, the flu viruses travel through the air in droplets. Then you inhale the droplets directly or you can pick up the germs from an object that you touch and then transfer them to your eyes, nose or mouth. People with the virus are likely contagious from the day or so before symptoms first appear until about five days after symptoms begin – although sometimes people are contagious for as long as 10 days after symptoms appear.
Influenza viruses are constantly changing, with new strains appearing regularly.
If you have had influenza in the past, your body has already made antibodies to fight that particular strain of the virus. Therefore, if you are exposed to influenza viruses that are similar to those you have encountered before, either by having the disease or by vaccination, then you are protected from the infection or its severity will be less.
ComplicationsIf you are young and healthy, seasonal influenza is usually not serious. Although you may feel miserable while you have it, the flu usually goes away in a week or two with no lasting effects. But high-risk kids and adults may develop complications such as:
Pneumonia is the most serious complication. For older adults and people with a chronic illness, pneumonia can be deadly. Treatment: Usually, you’ll need nothing more than bed rest and plenty of fluids to treat the flu. But, in some cases, your doctor may prescribe an antiviral medication, analgesics for headache and myalgia, and some vitamins. If taken soon after you notice symptoms, these drugs may shorten your illness by a day or so and help prevent serious complications.
Antiviral medication side effects may include nausea and vomiting. These may be lessened if the drug is taken with food.
If you do come down with the flu, these measures may help ease your symptoms:
Annual flu vaccination for everyone over the age of six months is highly recommended. Each year’s seasonal flu vaccine contains protection from the three or four influenza viruses that are expected to be the most common during that year’s flu season. This year the vaccine is recommended as an injection only.
The vaccine is not 100% effective, so it is also important to take measures such as these to reduce the spread of infection: