Flu

Other names: Influenza (flu)

DEFINITION

Influenza is a viral infection that attacks your respiratory system — your nose, throat, and lungs. Influenza, commonly called the Flu, is not the same as the stomach "Flu" viruses that cause Diarrhea and vomiting. People at higher risk of developing Flu complications include young children, adults older than 65, pregnant women, people with weakened immune systems, and people who have chronic illnesses. Your best defense against Influenza is to receive an annual vaccination.

SYMPTOMS

Initially, the Flu may seem like a common cold with a runny nose, sneezing, and sore throat. But colds usually develop slowly, whereas the Flu tends to come on suddenly. Common signs and symptoms of the Flu include fever over 100 F (38 C), aching muscles, chills and sweats, headache, dry cough, fatigue and weakness, and nasal congestion.

When to see a doctor: Most people who get the Flu can treat themselves at home. If you have Flu symptoms and are at risk of complications, see your doctor right away.

CAUSES

Flu viruses travel through the air in droplets when someone with the infection coughs, sneezes or talks. People with the virus are likely contagious from the day before symptoms first appear until five to 10 days after symptoms begin. Influenza viruses are constantly changing, with new strains appearing regularly.

RISK FACTORS

Factors that may increase your risk of developing Influenza or its complications include age, occupation (such as health care workers), living conditions (such as in nursing homes), weakened immune system (due to certain medications or conditions), chronic illnesses, and pregnancy.

COMPLICATIONS

High-risk individuals may develop complications such as pneumonia, bronchitis, asthma flare-ups, sinus infections, and ear infections. Pneumonia is the most serious complication.

TREATMENTS AND DRUGS

Treatment for the Flu usually involves bed rest and fluids. Antiviral medications like oseltamivir (Tamiflu) or zanamivir (Relenza) may be prescribed in some cases to shorten illness duration and prevent complications. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends annual Flu vaccination for all Americans over 6 months old.

LIFESTYLE AND HOME REMEDIES: It's important to wash hands frequently, cover coughs and sneezes properly, avoid crowds during peak Flu season, and stay home if sick to prevent spreading infection.


QUESTIONS

  1. What are the common symptoms of the Flu?

Fever over 100 F (38 C), aching muscles, chills and sweats, headache, dry cough, fatigue and weakness, nasal congestion.

  1. Who is at higher risk of developing Flu complications?

Young children, adults older than 65, pregnant women, people with weakened immune systems, people with chronic illnesses.

  1. How can you prevent getting the Flu?

Annual Flu vaccination is recommended for everyone over 6 months old.

  1. What are some common complications of the Flu?

Pneumonia, bronchitis, asthma flare-ups, sinus infections, ear infections.

  1. When should you see a doctor if you suspect you have the Flu?

If you are at risk of complications or if symptoms are severe.

  1. How does Influenza spread?

Through droplets in the air from coughing or sneezing by infected individuals.

  1. What treatments are available for the Flu?

Bed rest and fluids are usually sufficient; antiviral medications may be prescribed in some cases.

  1. Why is it important to get vaccinated against the Flu annually?

The vaccine protects against common circulating strains of Influenza each year.

  1. What lifestyle measures can help prevent spreading Influenza?

Washing hands frequently, covering coughs and sneezes properly,

avoiding crowds during peak seasons.

  1. Who is most at risk of developing severe complications from the Flu?

Older adults, young children,

pregnant women,

individuals with weakened immune systems or chronic illnesses.