28th, December 2022

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Influenza (flu) – Symptoms and causes

Overview

The respiratory system includes the nose, throat, and lungs, which are all affected by the flu (influenza). Although influenza is frequently referred to as the flu, it differs from stomach “flu” viruses that cause vomiting and diarrhea.

Most flu sufferers recover on their own. But occasionally, influenza and its side effects might be fatal. Those who are more likely to experience flu complications include:

  • little kids < 2 years old
  • adults who are above 65
  • Residents of long-term care facilities such as nursing homes
  • People with weaker immune systems Pregnant women or those planning pregnancies during flu season
  • Native Alaskans or American Indians
  • Chronically unwell individuals, including those with diabetes, heart disease, renal disease, asthma, and other diseases
  • individuals with a body mass index (BMI) of 40 or more
  • Although the annual flu shot isn’t 100% effective, it lowers the risk of developing serious infection-related consequences.

Symptoms

The flu may initially appear to be a typical cold with a runny nose, sneezing, and sore throat. Colds typically take time to break. However, the flu often strikes suddenly. And while having a cold might be unpleasant, having the flu typically makes you feel much worse.

Flu symptoms typically include:

  • Fever
  • sore muscles
  • sweats and chills
  • Headache
  • Continual dry cough
  • breathing difficulty
  • fatigue and sluggishness
  • runny or congested nose
  • unwell throat
  • eye discomfort
  • Vomiting and diarrhea are common, but more so in kids than in adults.

Whenever to visit a doctor

The majority of people who contract the flu can take care of themselves at home and frequently don’t need to visit a doctor.

Consult your healthcare professional straight away if you are experiencing flu-like symptoms and could develop complications. Antiviral medication may help you feel better faster and avoid developing more serious issues.

Seek immediate medical attention if you experience flu emergency symptoms. Adults may experience the following emergency signs:

  • respiratory issues or lack of breath
  • chest pain
  • persistent dizziness
  • Seizures
  • existing medical issues getting worse
  • muscular ache or extreme weakness

Children’s emergency signs may include:

  • Having trouble breathing
  • Depending on skin tone, pale, grey, or blue nails, lips, or nail beds are possible.
  • chest pain
  • Dehydration
  • significant muscular ache
  • Seizures
  • existing medical issues getting worse

Causes

Droplets of influenza viruses are released into the air when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or speaks. Direct inhalation of the droplets is possible. You can also get germs from a surface, like a phone or a computer keyboard, and then put them in your mouth, nose, or eyes.

The virus is most likely communicable from a day or so before symptoms start to four days or so after they do. Children and those with compromised immune systems may spread germs for a little while longer.

New strains of influenza viruses frequently emerge as a result of ongoing evolution. Your body has already produced antibodies to combat that particular strain of the virus if you’ve previously experienced influenza. These antibodies may prevent infection or lower the severity of infection if future influenza viruses are comparable to those you’ve already encountered, either by contracting the illness or receiving the vaccination. But over time, antibody levels can drop.

Additionally, you might not be protected from new influenza strains by antibodies against influenza viruses you have already encountered. The viruses you have now may be significantly different from previous ones.

risk elements

Your risk of contracting the flu or its consequences may be impacted by the following factors:

Age. Children under the age of two and adults over 65 have a tendency to fare worse from seasonal influenza.

conditions of living or employment. Flu cases are more common in those who live or work in large communal settings, such as nursing homes or military barracks. Additionally, hospital patients are more vulnerable.

compromised immune system The immune system can be weakened by HIV/AIDS, blood cancer, anti-rejection drugs, long-term steroid usage, organ transplant, cancer therapies, and anti-rejection drugs. This may increase the chance of contracting the flu and make complications more likely.

recurring illnesses The risk of influenza complications may be increased by chronic illnesses. Asthma and other lung ailments, diabetes, heart disease, diseases of the brain system, metabolic disorders, issues with the airways, and kidney, liver, or blood diseases are a few examples.

Race. People who identify as American Indians or Alaska Natives may be at higher risk for influenza complications.

usage of aspirin before age 19. If they contract influenza, people under the age of 19 who are taking long-term aspirin therapy run the risk of developing Reye’s syndrome.

Pregnancy. Complications from influenza are more common in pregnant people, especially in the second and third trimesters. Up to two weeks after the baby is born, this danger remains.

Obesity. A greater body mass index (BMI) increases the likelihood of flu complications in a person.

Complications

In young, healthy people, the flu is typically not a serious condition. The flu normally passes after a week or two with no permanent repercussions, despite the fact that you may feel horrible while you have it. But at-risk toddlers and adults could experience issues like:

  • Pneumonia
  • Bronchitis
  • asthma attacks
  • Heart issues
  • infected ears
  • syndrome of acute respiratory distress

One of the most dangerous side effects is pneumonia. Pneumonia can be fatal for elderly folks and those suffering from a chronic condition.

prevention of infection spread

Since the influenza vaccine isn’t 100% effective, it’s also critical to take a number of steps to stop the infection from spreading, such as:

sanitize your hands. Many common diseases can be avoided by frequently washing your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. In the absence of soap and water, utilize alcohol-based hand sanitizers.

Do not touch your face. Do not touch your lips, nose, or eyes.

Cover your sneezes and coughs. Sneeze or cough into your elbow or a tissue. After that, wash your hands.

pristine surfaces To stop the transmission of illness from touching a surface that has the virus on it and then touching your face, regularly clean frequently touched surfaces.

avoid crowds. Everywhere there are crowds of people, the flu is easily contagious: in daycare facilities, schools, workplaces, auditoriums, and public transit. You lessen your risk of contracting the flu by avoiding crowds during the height of the flu season.

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