Influenza Prevention: Tips for Staying Safe | Dettol India
Influenza: Understanding the Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment of the Disease
Influenza is commonly known as flu. But don’t mistake cold for flu. A cold causes slight discomfort, but flu can lead to serious complications. Influenza disease can cause mild or severe illness, particularly in vulnerable populations such as the elderly, young children, and individuals with underlying health conditions.
What is Influenza?
Influenza is caused by the influenza virus. It is a rapidly spreading infectious disease that mainly affects the trachea/ respiratory tract.
Types of Influenza Viruses
Influenza is categorised into four main types depending on the virus that causes the infection:
- Influenza A: It is the most common type of influenza virus that has various subtypes. It causes seasonal flu outbreaks in humans. According to WHO, ‘only influenza type A viruses are known to have caused pandemics.’
- Influenza B: Influenza B virus is less common than the influenza A virus but can still cause seasonal outbreaks of the flu.
- Influenza C: It can also cause respiratory illness in humans, but the symptoms are generally mild.
- Influenza D: It primarily affects cattle and is not known to infect humans.
Transmission of Influenza
Influenza is a highly contagious respiratory illness that can be transmitted from person to person in several ways.
- Influenza can be transmitted through respiratory secretions when an infected person talks, coughs, or sneezes. The virus can be spread through droplets that are expelled into the air and then inhaled by others.
- It can also spread by touching a surface that is contaminated with the virus and then touching one's mouth, nose, or eyes.
An infected person can transmit the virus even in the initial 1-4 days when the symptoms have not even shown up. Influenza can also be transmitted by animals, especially birds and pigs. In rare cases, these strains can be transmitted to humans and cause severe illness, as seen with the swine influenza (H1N1) viruses.
Symptoms of Flu
The most common Influenza symptoms are as follows:
- Sore Throat
- Body aches and pains
- Runny or stuffy nose
Common Cold has similar symptoms, and one can easily confuse flu with the common cold. Hence, self-diagnosis is not recommended. One must gather more information on flu symptoms and consult a doctor before taking any medications.
Differences between Flu and the Common Cold
Both influenza (flu) and the common cold are respiratory illnesses that are caused by viruses. However, they are caused by different viruses and have different symptoms too.
Type of Virus
Rhinovirus,Parainfluenza,Seasonal Coronaviruses etc
Sever Body Ache and Fatigue
Happens suddenly and can be debilitating
Happens gradually and starts with a scratchy throat or cough
Can lead to complications like pneumonia
Milder and people recover without any complications
Influenza Vaccination is available
No Vaccination available
Diagnosis and Treatment of Influenza Disease
The doctor may diagnose flu based on symptoms like fever, sore throat, body aches and headaches, especially in the flu season when influenza is more common. It can also be confirmed by clinical tests. There are two main types of clinical tests for influenza:
- Rapid influenza diagnostic tests (RIDTs): These are simple tests that can be performed in a doctor's office/ clinic or laboratory. A nasal or throat swab is used to detect viral antigens in respiratory secretions. The test can provide results in 15-30 minutes.
- Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests: These tests are more sensitive and specific than RIDTs because they can detect the genetic material of the influenza virus. PCR tests are typically performed in a laboratory and can take several hours to a few days to provide results.
Treatment Options for Influenza
The Influenza treatment is focused on relieving symptoms to avoid complications. Most of the people infected with influenza recover within a few days to a week. However, one must monitor the patient’s condition and consult a doctor if it starts deteriorating.
Treatment for influenza includes the following:
- Take proper sleep to give rest to the body and allow it to focus its energy on fighting against the virus.
- Drink plenty of fluids like water, soup or juices to avoid dehydration. It also helps to loosen the mucous in the respiratory tract. The pee colour should be ideally clear or light yellow. A darker colour can indicate dehydration.
- Paracetamol and ibuprofen [i] are prescribed to reduce fever and pain in the body.
- Keeping warm can help in recovering sooner. One can use a humidifier in the room.
- Seek immediate medical intervention if the influenza symptoms are worsening or the patient is in a high-risk group. Kids below 5 years of age[ii] and elders above 65 years of age are in high-risk groups.
- In some cases, antiviral medications might be administered to deal with the illness. They work best when taken in the initial stage of illness.
- Hospitalization may also be necessary to avoid complications like pneumonia.
Flu Prevention Tips
Influenza is a highly contagious respiratory illness, so prevention is the best way to stay safe from this disease. There are many prevention procedures for the flu, and they are as follows:
- Vaccination: It is one of the most effective ways of preventing influenza. The influenza virus keeps evolving; hence, the vaccine is constantly monitored and updated to protect against the latest strain of the influenza virus.
- Personal Protection Measures: One must follow hygiene practices to stay safe from the flu. A few personal protection measures are mentioned below:
- Stay home when sick: Maintain distance from a person who is infected with the Also, if you are experiencing initial symptoms of fever and cough, then isolate yourself immediately.
- Hand Hygiene: It is important to wash your hand frequently, especially before having meals or touching your face, nose, or mouth. Keep your hand clean by washing them with a Dettol bar soap for at least 20 seconds. However, in the absence of water, you can also rely on hand sanitisers.
- Coughing etiquettes: Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your elbow while coughing or sneezing to avoid the spread of infection to others.
- Maintain a healthy lifestyle: A healthy lifestyle helps boost your immune system and reduces your risk of getting sick. So, eat healthy food, exercise regularly and sleep properly to strengthen your immune system.
- Environmental Control Measures: [iii] These measures are aimed at controlling the spread of influenza by reducing the likelihood of the virus surviving on surfaces or transmitting through the air.
- Disinfection: Regularly clean and disinfect surfaces that are frequently touched, such as doorknobs, light switches, and countertops. Use a disinfectant that is effective against influenza viruses.
- Avoid Dry Dusting: Sweeping and dry dusting can lead to aerosols in the air, increasing the chances of spreading influenza.
- Regular Cleaning: The mop cloths and other dusters used for cleaning should be properly disinfected and dried before being used again.
- Community-Based Influenza Prevention: By implementing community-based influenza prevention schemes, individuals and organizations can work together to reduce the spread of influenza within their community
- Vaccination Campaigns: The flu outbreak can be controlled by vaccinating more and more people. Community-based vaccination campaigns can be organized to increase vaccination among high-risk groups, such as the elderly, young children, and individuals with underlying health conditions.
- Public Awareness Campaigns: Community-based public awareness campaigns can be designed to educate people about the importance of hand hygiene, respiratory etiquette, and other hygiene practices to prevent the spread of influenza.
- School-based Programs: Children must be educated about personal hygiene practices to prevent flu outbreaks amongst kids.
- Workplace Programs: At the workplace, sick employees should be encouraged to stay home. Wipes, tissues and hand Sanitizers like Dettol Hand Sanitizers should be placed on desks and toilets to promote personal hygiene.
- Community Outreach Programs: Community centres or residential associations can organize outreach programs to educate community members about influenza prevention measures and provide information about vaccination.
By following these steps, you can help reduce the flu risk and protect everyone.
Effective Methods of Coping with Flu
Psychological effects of Influenza Disease
A person infected with influenza is isolated. Living alone with fever and pain can cause anxiety and depression in many patients. Here are a few psychological effects of Influenza:
- Social Isolation: People with influenza must isolate themselves to avoid spreading the infection to others. This can lead to feelings of loneliness or social withdrawal.
- Depression: Isolation can cause feelings of sadness or hopelessness. If the illness is prolonged, then the depression can be even more serious.
- Anxiety: The uncertainty and unpredictability of influenza can cause anxiety in some people, especially if they have a high risk of complications. It is often observed that caring for someone who is sick can also raise your anxiety levels.
- Fatigue: Because of the illness, patients cannot concentrate on their work or The inability to do something of their choice can contribute to mood swings and anxiety.
Coping Strategies for Influenza Patients
It is important to take care of the physical health of influenza patients. The psychological effects of influenza are also temporary and generally resolve as the illness resolves. Staying hydrated and nourished will help influenza patients recover sooner. Keep monitoring the influenza symptoms and seek support and guidance from a healthcare professional in case they worsen.
Importance of Raising Awareness About Influenza
Influenza is a contagious respiratory disease that can cause complications in some people. It is important to raise awareness about influenza to help in the early detection of the disease. Timely medical intervention can avoid serious complications of the disease. Also, if people understand the various nuances of the disease, then they will cautiously follow all the prevention techniques, stay clean and hygienic and get vaccinated to avoid influenza. Click here for more information on how to prevent an infection.