Influenza - Signs, Symptoms, Prevention and Treatment

One illness that strikes during the winter months is influenza, the respiratory illness commonly known as the flu. It is contagious and primarily affects the lungs, nose, and bronchial tubes. Influenza viruses can strike people of all ages though young children, especially those between the ages of 3 and 5 are more susceptible to the illness. Those over the age of 65 are also vulnerable and can suffer serious illness which can at times prove fatal.

Annual vaccination is the recommended method of safeguarding against influenza. Mild cases of influenza can be cured with home remedies and over-the-counter Flu.medicines. The flu pandemic of 1918 lasted for about two years and saw over 20 million fatalities all over the world. It is considered the worst ever epidemic in the world’s history. Since then, many more new strains of the influenza viruses have been found including H5N1 which causes bird flu and H1N1 which causes swine flu. Immediate medical attention must be sought in severe cases.

Types of Influenza 

The influenza viruses are categorized as Type A, Type B, and Type C. The first two can lead to epidemics while Type C results in only mild illness. Type A virus can be found in animals, birds, and humans while Type B is exclusive to humans. The Type A virus is more dangerous as it can mutate into various other strains easily. This is also why the strain of virus in annual immunizations keeps changing.

Signs and Symptoms 

The onset of flu is usually sudden with fever, headache, throat irritation, fatigue, dry cough, and lack of appetite being the common symptoms. Infants and young children may also have nausea or vomiting and diarrhea. It is easy to confuse flu symptoms with those of other ailments. Effects of the flu can stay for days and even weeks. People with compromised immune systems and the elderly or the very young may develop severe symptoms or complications.

Prevention

Simple things like washing hands properly and coughing or sneezing in the right way can help control the spread of flu to a great extent. Use of a hand sanitizer is also a good precautionary measure during flu season. Keeping the mouth and nose covered with a tissue when coughing and sneezing can stop the germs from being passed on to others. The tissue must then be discarded in a waste basket. Annual flu vaccines are available and these are very effective.

Treatment

Most people seek professional medical treatment for the flu only if symptoms turn severe or do not improve with the use of home remedies and over-the-counter medicines. People with medical conditions such as diabetes, asthma, and immune disorders, as well as pregnant women, should seek a doctor’s opinion and not opt for self-medication. Acetaminophen and ibuprofen are good fever reducers but aspirin should not be used for this purpose. Anti-viral drugs may be prescribed for children or those who are extremely sick.

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