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Influenza: Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Prevention

Influenza or flu is caused by a virus that leads to respiratory illness. It is highly contagious and spreads easily through coughs and sneezes of an infected person.

Influenza can be communicated simply through touch. Adults can start spreading the virus 2 days before the symptoms start showing up and they can spread it for up to 7 days from the day they become ill. This means that you can end up spreading the influenza virus way before you figure out that you are ill.

It is observed that 250,000 - 500,000 people die due to influenza in a calendar year. In countries with heavy industrialization, deaths caused due to influenza are reported to be higher in people aged above 65.

An influenza epidemic can go on for several weeks when a large part of the population in one country is affected by the flu.

Let us look at some of the symptoms:

People regularly confuse flu with a bad cold. Symptoms of influenza and cold include runny/blocked nose, cough and a sore throat.

Mentioned below are some of the symptoms that differentiate influenza from a heavy cold:

  • Headache
  • Aching limbs and joints
  • High temperature
  • Exhaustion, fatigue
  • Shivers, cold sweat
  • Gastrointestinal symptoms, which include nausea, diarrhea and vomiting (common in children than adults)

These symptoms, stay for a week. The feeling of fatigue and gloom can last for several weeks.

How serious is influenza?

In maximum cases, influenza is not serious – it is just uneasy. However, in some unfortunate cases, the flu can lead to severe complications. This is more likely to happen in the case of young children, elderly people and individuals with a longstanding illness that can compromise their immune system.

The risk of going through severe influenza complications is higher:

  • People above the age of 65
  • Young children and babies
  • People with cardiovascular and heart disease
  • People with chest problems like bronchitis and asthma
  • People with kidney disease
  • People suffering from diabetes
  • People on steroids
  • People go through cancer treatment

Some of the complications associated with influenza may include dehydration, bacterial pneumonia, and worsened chronic conditions like congestive heart failure, diabetes, or asthma.

Treatments for influenza:

As influenza is caused by a virus, antibiotics are useless, unless the flu has progressed to other illnesses caused by bacteria. Some of the common symptoms like a headache and body pains can be treated with the help of painkillers / a paracetamol.

People suffering from influenza should:

  • Stay put at home
  • Avoid direct contact with people till you are cured
  • Keep your hands protected from germs with the help of Dettol Liquid Handwash or Hand Sanitiser
  • Take rest and keep yourself warm
  • Consume plenty of liquids
  • Abstain from drinking alcohol
  • Stop smoking
  • Keep separate utensils for the one who is infected and make sure that you wash those utensils with Dettol Multiuse Hygiene Liquid

How to prevent the flu?

Health experts and government agencies worldwide say that the best way to protect yourself from influenza is by getting vaccinated every year.

Two types of vaccinations are available. The flu shot and the nasal-spray flu vaccine. The flu shot is given with the help of a needle, usually in the arm. This procedure is approved for anyone above the age of 6 months.

The nasal-spray flu vaccine is made of live, weakened flu viruses that do not make you ill.

There are three types of influenza viruses – A (H3N2) virus, A (H1N2) virus, and B virus. As viruses adapt and evolve, so do the vaccines.