Influenza, or flu, is a contagious viral disease. It mainly occurs in winter, although it can happen during any other season. This infection more often attacks the upper respiratory system.
The seasonal influenza symptoms occur 24-48 hours after being infected. Symptoms develop fast, in the first hours after the infection. Those are the symptoms:
- High temperature (over 38C, sweating, fever)
- Pains all over the body
- Severe exhaustion
- Frequent sneezing
- Stuffed or dripping nose
- Sore throat
- Vomiting and diarrhea
The symptoms usually last for a few days and then disappear. The fatigue and depression may remain even after the rest of symptoms withdraw.
What to do?
Influenza symptoms can be alleviated by resting, drinking large quantity of liquid, and maintaining the body temperature (in case of high temperature, take paracetamol or ibuprofen – for children, use the appropriate dosage recommended; the room temperature should be normal, not too warm or cold; wear light clothes, do not overheat the child with increased temperature; closely monitor the condition of younger children as they are susceptible to febrile convulsions when they have high temperature; don’t give aspirin to younger than 16). Paracetamol and ibuprofen help to lower the temperature and ease the pains; these drugs are not to be taken by pregnant women. You should immediately see a doctor, especially if are a high-risk factor patient or if you have any other serious disease, as well as if you have difficulties in breathing, if the condition suddenly deteriorates, or if the symptoms get worse after 7 days. The doctor may prescribe anti-viral drug. These drugs may alleviate the symptoms and shorten the duration of the flu. The doctor may refer you to blood test analysis to determine if there is any other infection, for e.g. lung infection. If there is a bacterial infection, too, the doctor will prescribe antibiotics or may refer you to hospital.
General hygiene measures are to be taken in order to eliminate the spread of all flu types:
- Cover your nose and mouth when sneezing or coughing with a handkerchief, and then throw it
- Wash your hands with soap and water very often
- Clean door handles, TV remotes, work space, etc.
- Flu-infected persons should stay at home until their condition gets better, and thus prevent further spread of the infection.
Make sure the children follow these instructions, too. Do not take them to kindergarten or school if they have a flu. Teach them to keep their hand to their mouth when coughing or sneezing.
The most serious influenza complication is lung infection, which can be life-threatening to some high-risk groups: children to 5 years of age, pregnant women, persons over 65, or with compromised immune system, such as HIV patients or patients under chemotherapy or treated with corticosteroids, patients with chronic lung disease or asthma, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes or those with metabolism disorder, chronic liver disease, cystic fibrosis, kidney disease, muscular dystrophy, recent stroke, nervous system disorder, such as cerebral paralysis, Parkinson’s disease or multiple sclerosis.
Immunization is an excellent prevention from seasonal flu. It is recommended for the elderly, the high-risk groups (not including newborn babies younger than 6 months), people who will be exposed to viruses, such as health workers. Immunization prevents approx .2/3 of people regularly taking vaccines. Vaccines are not 100% effective as viruses mutate. Anti-viral drugs cannot prevent flu, but may alleviate the symptoms and reduce the time of the disease.