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Mar 2023

Everything you should know about Influenza

Posted By Suborna Fermi Posted on Mar 24, 2023

Influenza is another name of Flu, and it is a very common respiratory illness. This respiratory illness is caused by influenza virus. Fever, headache, body ache, runny nose, congestion, and sore throat are the most common symptoms of influenza or flu.

Generally, flu symptoms are mild, but it can cause severe health complications if you have an existing disease or you are pregnant. It is recommended by the doctors to get vaccinated once a year to prevent influenza. Here are some important things about influenza you should be aware of.

What is influenza or flu?

Influenza or Flu is a common illness caused by the influenza virus. The symptoms of influenza are very much similar to the respiratory illness symptoms. While influenza can affect people at any time of the year, the risk is significantly higher from December to February.

How common is influenza?

Influenza or flu is one of the most typical respiratory diseases throughout the world. In India, there are nearly 10 million cases of influenza each year.

Are influenza and the common cold the same thing?

No, both illnesses are quite different from each other. The viruses that cause influenza and the common cold are distinct from one another. Since both influenza and the common cold affect our respiratory system, their symptoms are quite similar. However, the symptoms of the common cold are comparatively milder than the symptoms of influenza.

Also, the symptoms of influenza appear quickly, and the common cold symptoms appear slowly. Influenza symptoms might be very severe to some people, which can lead to major health consequences.

How would you know whether you have COVID-19 or influenza?

It can be challenging to differentiate between COVID-19 and influenza based solely on symptoms. Getting a diagnostic test is the only accurate and reliable way to determine if you have COVID-19 or influenza. Since the viruses that cause the two diseases are different from one another, so will their corresponding treatments be.

What are the symptoms of influenza?

Despite being a respiratory disease, it can impact your entire body. . The symptoms generally appear right after contracting the virus, and they may differ from person to person. People with influenza may experience symptoms, such as:

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Cough (can get severe)
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Bodyache
  • Exhaustion
  • Sore throat
  • Runny nose
  • Congestion
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea

What are the complications of influenza?

Only influenza itself is not fatal, but influenza-related complications can be. The complications of influenza are:

  • Pneumonia
  • Acute respiratory distress syndrome
  • Sinus infection
  • Ear infection
  • Misscarriage
  • Neural tube defects in the fetus in a pregnant woman

Who is at a greater risk of health complications from influenza?

You may be more prone to severe influenza-related complications if you have any existing or underlying medical condition. The influenza related complication can be life-threatening and require immediate hospitalization. The risk factors are:

  • People who have a chronic lung disease.
  • People who have a medical history of heart disease, kidney disease, liver disease, and neurological disease.
  • People with weakened immune systems.
  • People who have obesity and diabetes.
  • People who have blood disorders.
  • Pregnant women.
  • Children under the age of 5 years.
  • Adults above the age 65 years.

When should you go to the doctors?

  • Go to the doctors if you have an existing medical condition, and have influenza symptoms at the same time.
  • If your influenza symptoms do not go away after a week then you should consult your doctor.
  • If you are pregnant and having flu symptoms, then you should immediately consult with your doctor.

What is the cause of influenza?

Influenza is mainly caused by influenza viruses. There are generally 3 types of influenza viruses including influenza A, B and C. As previously mentioned, the influenza A and B viruses are responsible for the seasonal influenza infections, which primarily affect people in the winter.

Influenza C virus is responsible for the flu that people get all around the year. Both swine flu and bird flu are caused by subtypes of influenza A virus. The symptoms of influenza A and B viruses are more severe than the influenza C virus.

How does influenza spread?

Influenza is very contagious, it transmits through direct or indirect contact of the infected person. So here are the common ways by which people typically contract the virus:

  • If an infected person coughs, sneezes or talks close to you, the droplets can enter your mouth, nose, and hands.
  • If you touch your face after touching an infected person’s hands, then you might get the virus.
  • You can also get infected if you touch your face after touching any contaminated surface.

One or four days after catching the virus, you may experience influenza-like symptoms.

How is influenza diagnosed?

To diagnose an influenza, your doctor would examine your symptoms and health history. Then he or she would prescribe you a diagnostic test to confirm influenza. The diagnostic test might include a swab test or a blood test.

How long does influenza last?

Influenza might last from a few days to two weeks. While fever and body pain may go away within a few days, coughs may last a bit longer.

How is influenza treated?

Mild cases of influenza do recover on their own with just the right medication and lots of rest. However, doctors usually treat influenza based on your age, medical history, severity of symptoms, and the type of flu you have.

After determining the severity of your influenza, your doctor might give you antiviral medicines. Although these antivirals help to reduce the time period of your illness, they cannot completely treat the flu. Also, antivirals do have certain side effects, such as nausea, weakness, and nervousness.

What medicines can treat influenza?

The following are some antivirals that doctors recommend using:

  • Oseltamivir phosphate: Oseltamivir phosphate comes in both pill and liquid. You need to take this medicine for several days.
  • Peramivir: Most people require only one dose of peramivir. A medical expert will give you this medicine straight in your vein with the help of an IV.
  • Zanamivir: You have to take zanamivir through an inhaler. Use as your doctor has prescribed. However, this medication is not recommended for people having breathing issues including asthma, and COPD.
  • Baloxavir marboxil: Baloxavir marboxil comes in both pill and liquid form. However, this medication is not recommended for breastfeeding or pregnant women.

All these medications are generally used in the treatment of influenza. But it is advisable to not take any medicines on your own. Use only as your doctor has prescribed you. Because some of these medicines are not safe for those who are pregnant or breastfeeding, as well as those who have serious health issues.

Are there any side effects of influenza treatment?

Apart from the treatment value, nearly every medicine has certain side effects. Generally, medicinal side effects may include nausea, weakness, and diarrhea. Besides, the side effects of inhalers may include tightening of your airways. For this reason, it is important to consult with your doctor before beginning any antivirals.

What should you do if you have the influenza?

Apart from the harmful effects of influenza, you can still manage the symptoms at home. Here are a few ways for relieving the symptoms of influenza.

  • Take a lot of rest.
  • Make sure to drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration.
  • Hot bag or hot water bottle can help to relieve body ache.
  • Having acetaminophen can help to reduce your fever, and body pain.
  • Using decongestants in either spray form or oral form can help in clearing stuffy nose.
  • Using cough suppressants can help to reduce coughs.

As previously mentioned, use medication only as your doctors have prescribed. Do not give aspirin to children under the age of 16, without your doctor’s recommendation.

How can you prevent influenza?

Getting a influenza or flu vaccination is one of the best ways to protect yourself from this respiratory illness. It is crucial to get vaccinated every year, because the influenza virus mutates a bit every year. Apart from vaccination, you can prevent influenza by practicing some daily habits. Other ways include:

  • You should wash your hands more often with soap and water.
  • If you do not have the convenience of washing your hands, you can use an alcohol based hand sanitizer.
  • You should practice covering your mouth and nose when you sneeze or cough.
  • Wearing a mask may protect you from catching certain viruses.
  • Avoid touching your face, mouth, and nose without washing or sanitizing your hands.
  • It is advisable to avoid sharing or using communal utensils.

When should you require immediate medical help?

Seek for immediate medical help if you are having symptoms of severe illness, including:

  • High grade fever
  • Breathing issue
  • Pain in the chest or in the lower stomach
  • Severe muscle pain
  • Dizziness
  • Seizure
  • Bluish lips, skin and nails

Influenza is a very common illness, and most people recover on their own. However, as it can cause severe symptoms, it is always better to notice the symptoms and get medical help if needed. And make sure to get vaccinated every year to prevent any flu.