Influenza Explained

Influenza, health

Influenza a viral, highly contagious respiratory condition. It can spread simply by the sneeze and cough of a person who is affected from it. It could also be transferred by a touch of an infected person (such as shaking hands). People are contagious one day before getting affected and for up to seven days after becoming sick. That means, the patient could spread the influenza virus before it has shown its symptoms fully to the person himself.  A flu epidemic, when a large number of people in one country are infected with flu, can last several weeks. According to the National Institute of Health , between five percent and 20 percent of Americans get the flu each year. Due to the reasons which are explained above, more than 200,000 people are hospitalized and 36,000 die annually because of flu in the United States.

What are the symptoms ?

It is common to confuse influenza with a bad cold. Flu and cold symptoms may include cough, sore throat, and a blocked/runny nose. Here are some symptoms which a person with flu would have.

Some common symptoms includes:

  • Headache
  • High temperature
  • Aching limbs, aching joints
  • Feeling utterly exhausted, fatigued
  • Gastrointestinal problems, like diarrhea, vomiting, and nausea, are much common in children
  • Cold sweats, shivers

How serious is the flu?

In the majority of cases, influenza is not serious – it is explained as unpleasant. For some people, however, there can be severe complications. This is more likely if you are old and frail, and have other serious underlying problems that can hamper the immune system. Influenza mostly strikes if the person :

  • Is pregnant
  • An infant or a young child
  • Has some kind of heart or cardiovascular disease
  • Has a kidney disease
  • Has a chest problem, such as asthma or bronchitis
  • Has diabetes
  • Is undergoing treatment for cancer
  • Is taking steroids
  • Is over 65
  • Has any longstanding disease that can significantly lower the  immune system

Other complications include dehydration, bacterial pneumonia and worsening of serious medical problems, like diabetes, asthma, or heart failure. Children might get ear infections and sinus problems.

What should be done if suffering from influenza?

For influenza virus, antibiotics would not do any good, unless the flu has caused another sickness. If under the flu, following tips should be taken by the patient:

  •  If a patient lives alone, than he should tell a relative, friend or neighbor that he has flu.  He should make sure someone can check in on him and do his shopping
  • The patient should try to get some food down
  • If he is a  smoker, he should stop smoking or cut the consumption down as much as possible
  • Should avoid consumption of alcohol
  • Should take a lot of liquids
  • Should keep warm and take rest
  • Should avoid contact with other people
  • Should stay at home

Should an influenza patient contact a doctor?

According to the UK Department of Health, the infected person should see the doctor to explain the problem if  they are weak and old, their temperature  continuously stays high after five days, their symptoms worsen, they think they are seriously ill, they have  become short of breath, and/or they have developed chest pain,  as it might contribute to chronic influenza and other diseases. A phone call to the doctor if the patients are worried might be a better solution than making an appointment.

By Syeda Kiran Zahra Hussain

Mayo Clinic
News Medical

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