Influenza, also referred to as flu, is a serious respiratory infection caused by viruses. It is easily spread from person to person. You are at a higher risk of developing influenza complications if you are:
- An adult over 65 years of age
- Residents of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities
- Have a weakened immune system
- Suffering from chronic illnesses, such as asthma, heart, liver, and kidney disease, and diabetes
- Very obese, with a body mass index (BMI) of 40 or higher
Causes of Influenza
Influenza is caused by influenza viruses, which are usually passed through the air via coughing, talking, and sneezing. You can inhale the droplets directly, or you can pick it up from any object such as a keyboard or telephone and then transfer them to your own eyes, nose, or mouth.
Symptoms of Influenza
Initially, influenza may seem like a common cold with a runny nose, sneezing, and sore throat. Symptoms appear suddenly and may include:
- Fever over 100.4 F (38 C)
- Muscle or body aches
- Chills and sweats
- Fatigue or tiredness
- Sore throat
Diagnosis of Influenza
Your doctor will first review your medical history and ask about your symptoms. There are several tests for influenza which include using a swab to swipe the back of your throat or the inside of your nose which is sent to a lab to be tested for the virus. Some tests give results within 15 to 20 minutes, but they do not always provide accurate results. Others takes around one hours to several hours.
Treatment of Influenza
Treatment depends on the severity. Adequate rest and fluid (preferably water) consumption may help to fight off viruses in mild cases. For high-risk groups, you should contact your health care provider as you might require antiviral medicines to treat your influenza. Antiviral medicines can also treat serious flu complications. For better results, you need to start taking them within 2 days of falling sick.
Side effects of antiviral medication may include nausea and vomiting. You can reduce the side effects if the drug is taken with food.