Commonly referred to as the flu, influenza is a viral disease usually transferred through sneezes and coughs. This respiratory condition is contagious and infects the throat, nose, and lungs. It is highly important to know the different symptoms of flu as well as possible complications because they can be fatal especially when left untreated.
Symptoms of Flu
At first, the flu may feel just like a common cold with signs like a sore throat, sneezing, and runny nose. The main difference is that the flu often strikes a person swiftly, while colds take a slightly longer time to develop. In general, the flu feels heavier to have on the body compared to a common cold.
A person with flu usually has a sore throat, nasal congestion, and headache. Weakness and fatigue are felt together with muscle and body pains. A 38 degree Celsius fever, chilling and sweating are also quite normal for people with the flu.
In some cases, patients may suffer from diarrhea and vomiting. This is a more common thing among children than adults.
Individuals at High Risk of Getting Flu Complications
Some people are more exposed to flu and its complications than others. Individuals with a 40 or higher BMI or body mass index are at risk of these dangerous conditions. Those with chronic diseases are high risk as well due to their weak immune systems. These include people with diabetes, liver disease, kidney disease, heart disease, and asthma.
Women who are pregnant and those who are up to 2 weeks after giving birth have higher chances of being infected. People who reside in long-term care facilities such as nursing homes are at high risk of developing flu complications as well. The same thing also goes for adults age 65 years and up and young children age 5 and below.
The normal recovery time for people who are sick with the flu is just a few days to about a couple of weeks. However, certain complications like pneumonia may arise, which can be fatal and eventually lead to death. Adults and children who are high risk to have the flu may also develop ear infections, heart problems, flare-ups from asthma and bronchitis.
The flu can trigger other serious complications like inflammation of the muscle, brain and heart tissues. In worse cases, it can cause multiple organ failure. When the flu affects the respiratory tract, it can prompt the body to deliver an extreme inflammatory response. This is bad as it may result in sepsis, which means the body is fighting off the infection through a life-threatening response.
People with chronic medical conditions may suffer more if they have the flu. For instance, chronic heart disease and asthma patients may feel multiple times worse if they have the flu.
Emergency Warning Signs
Be sure to visit your doctor right away in case you see the following signs in patients suffering from the flu.
For children, it is never a good sign for them to have a fever with rashes. Rush them to the doctor if they do not want to be held, if they are not interacting or if they are not waking up. It is also bad if they are not drinking enough liquids, if they have trouble breathing or if their skin turns bluish.
In adults, be vigilant if the patient is suffering from persistent vomiting, confusion, and sudden dizziness. It is also not a good sign when you see pressure or pain in the abdomen or chest. The shortness of breath and difficulty in breathing should also be a cause for alarm.
For both children and adults, practice extreme caution when flu-like symptoms get better just to come back with a far worse cough and fever.
For infants with flu, seek medical help right away when you observe signs like crying without tears, not eating, or having breathing problems.
Possible Causes of the Flu
When an infected individual talks, sneezes or coughs, another person can get the flu when the viruses are inhaled. You can also get infected by picking up germs from computer keyboards, telephones, and other regular objects. These germs can be transferred via the mouth, nose, and eyes.
Individuals with weak immune systems and children have slightly more chances of getting the flu. They can get the virus starting from the day when the symptoms initially showed up until around four to five days thereafter.
Some individuals have higher chances of developing the flu and its complications. Older adults and young children have the highest tendencies to suffer from seasonal flu. Individuals who work or live in establishments with many people are also at high risk of the disease.
The immune system can drop from so many ways. HIV/AIDS, corticosteroids, anti-rejection treatments, and cancer medications can improve an individual’s risk of developing complications.
People with heart diseases, diabetes or asthma have a greater risk of having flu complications. The same can also be said for pregnant women in their 2nd and 3rd trimesters and those who are 2 weeks from giving birth. Obese people are also at high risk of having flu complications.
Prevention Is Better Than Cure: How to Stop the Flu From Spreading
When it comes to flu, prevention is better than cure because the current flu vaccine is not completely effective.
The first way to control the spread of flu is through frequent and thorough hand washing. Not only is this practice effective in stopping the spread of flu. It is also effective in preventing the spread of other common diseases. If you do not have access to soap and water, alcohol-based hand sanitizers are perfect replacements.
The next step is to contain sneezes and coughs. Make it a habit to cover your nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing. Use a handkerchief, tissue or any clean cloth as cover whenever you cough or sneeze.
During flu season, avoid crowded spots such as public transportation, auditoriums, office buildings, schools and child care centers. By doing this, you can decrease your chances of getting infected as well as getting other people infected.