Influenza, commonly known as the flu, is a highly contagious respiratory illness that sweeps across the globe, affecting millions each year.
The flu is caused by a virus. However, it’s different from the stomach “flu” viruses that cause vomiting and diarrhea.
What are the different types of influenza?
At the heart of the flu’s origin lies the influenza virus, a microscopic culprit responsible for seasonal outbreaks. There are four main types of influenza viruses: A, B, C, and D.
This ailment distinguishes itself from a common cold. While over 100 different viruses can induce a cold, the flu is exclusively caused by influenza virus types A, B, and C.
- Influenza A and B: These viruses are the primary culprits behind large seasonal flu outbreaks.
- Influenza C: While less common, this virus usually induces milder respiratory symptoms.
The flu viruses are highly contagious. They primarily spread through respiratory droplets when an infected person talks, coughs, or sneezes. Additionally, touching contaminated surfaces and then touching the face can contribute to transmission.
What are the symptoms of the flu?
Recognizing the symptoms of the flu is essential for prompt identification and appropriate action. Common symptoms include:
- Fever: Often high and abrupt, fever is a hallmark symptom of the flu.
- Cough: A persistent cough. Sometimes it is accompanied by phlegm.
- Sore Throat: Irritation and discomfort in the throat are frequent flu indicators.
- Muscle Aches and Fatigue: Body aches and overall fatigue are typical flu symptoms.
- Headache: Intense headaches often accompany the flu.
- Chills and Sweats: Experiencing chills and sweats is common during the flu.
- Nasal Congestion: A runny or stuffy nose is another respiratory manifestation.
- GERD Symptoms: Some individuals may experience nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea. These symptoms are more common in children.
Who is at risk of having flu?
Most people with the flu get better on their own, but for some, it can lead to severe complications. In rare cases, even be fatal.
· Adults over the age of sixty-five
· Children under the age of twelve months
· Those who live or work in facilities that house a large number of other people, such as nursing homes, military barracks, and hospitals.
· Those who are pregnant, have recently become pregnant, or are planning to become pregnant during flu season.
People with the following conditions are also at an increased risk of flu complications:
· BMI of 40 or more.
· Compromised immune systems
· Disorders of the nervous system or ailments that alter how the brain processes information.
Furthermore, those with particular medical disorders are more likely to develop flu complications, such as:
· Those who have experienced a stroke.
· Those who have heart disease, asthma, renal disease, diabetes, and liver disease.
· People under the age of 20 who are taking long-term aspirin medication.
Medical interventions for influenza
1. Antiviral Medications: Prescription antiviral medications can help reduce the severity and duration of symptoms. This includes:
These medications are most effective when taken early in the course of the illness.
2. Pain Relievers and Fever Reducers: OTC medications like acetaminophen and ibuprofen can provide relief from fever, body aches, and headaches.
3. Cough Suppressants and Decongestants: These medications can help alleviate respiratory symptoms associated with the flu.
How can I prevent the flu?
While treating the flu is essential, preventing its onset is equally vital. Employing the following preventive measures can help reduce the risk of contracting and spreading the flu:
1. Annual Vaccination: Receive a flu shot each year to bolster immunity against prevalent strains.
2. Hand Hygiene: Wash hands frequently with soap and water. Use a hand sanitizer to minimize the risk of surface transmission.
3. Respiratory Etiquette: Cover the mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing. Maintain a safe distance from individuals exhibiting flu-like symptoms.
4. Avoiding Touching the Face: Minimize touching the face, especially the nose, mouth, and eyes, to reduce the risk of introducing the virus into the body.