Most of us have had the flu at least once in our life and some get it more than once. Most of us confuse the flu with the cold because symptoms can be similar. Both the cold and flu are respiratory infections.Influenza (flu) is a highly contagious respiratory infection that is caused by influenza viruses that enter the body through mucus membranes in the nose, mouth or eyes. If a person with the flu coughs or sneezes the virus becomes airborne and can then be inhaled by anyone nearby. Schools are breeding grounds for the flu because children rarely cover their mouths when they cough or sneeze. The flu virus is then brought into homes where the virus is spread to others in the family. In the U.S. approximately 5% to 20% of the population gets the flu. Approximately 36,000 people die from the flu each year most of them elderly.
The influenza virus is usually prominent during the fall and winter and so these seasons are typically called, “flu season”.
Typically the symptoms of the flu first appear about 3 days after exposure to the influenza virus. Symptoms can appear suddenly and can be mild or severe.
The most common flu symptoms are fever, headache, muscle aches and stiffness, chills, extreme fatigue, dry cough, runny nose and nasal congestion, and possibly nausea, vomiting, diarrhea.
You can prevent the flu by getting flu vaccines. Antivirals can prevent the flu, treat the flu virus and ease the symptoms of the flu if taken within the first 48 hours of coming down with the flu.
Antibiotics do not help flu symptoms and should not be given unless they are treating a complication of the flu. There are over-the-counter medications that can ease flu symptoms and you can do non-medical alternatives such as washing your hands often and covering your mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing to help prevent the spread of the flu virus.
The flu season is usually fall and winter. It may be helpful to ask your doctor the following questions about the flu prior to the flu season so that you can be prepared for the flu season.
What are your recommendations for flu prevention?
How do you treat the flu?
Is the flu vaccine right for me or members of my family?
Do you give antivirals for the flu?
Do you give antivirals to children?
Prevention is a very important step to take before flu season starts. Make sure children learn the proper way to cover mouth and nose while coughing or sneezing. Also, make sure that children are taught the proper way to wash hands and that they wash hands frequently, especially before eating.