Influenza or the flu is a virus that spreads quickly from person to person. Influenza is a contagious disease caused by viruses that infect the respiratory tract. The influenza virus infects your nose, throat and lungs. The flu is normally worse than a cold.
It causes severe illness and life threatening complications in many people. Symptoms of influenza come on suddenly and can include fever, chills, muscle aches, runny nose, cough and stomach upsets.
People of all ages can get the flu. However, children, the elderly, and people with weakened immune systems are most susceptible and more likely to develop serious complications. In the United States, flu season runs from October to May, with most cases happening between late December and early March.
What is the cause of influenza?
Influenza can be caused by different strains of the influenza virus. There are three different types of flu viruses: influenza A, B, and C all of which cause illness in humans.
What are the symptoms?
Influenza symptoms can include fever, headache, muscle pain, runny nose, sore throat, extreme tiredness and cough. Children may also experience nausea, vomiting or diarrheoa. Although infections from other viruses may have similar symptoms, those due to the flu virus tend to be worse.
Symptoms can begin about 1 to 4 days, or an average of 2 days. It mostly occurs after a person is first exposed to the flu virus. Fever and other symptoms can usually last up to 7 to 10 days, but the cough and weakness may last 1 to 2 weeks longer.
How does influenza spread?
Influenza spreads easily from person to person through coughing, sneezing or face-to-face contact. You can also get the flu through either handshakes, hugs, saliva, kissing or sharing drinks.
The virus can also spread when a person touches tiny droplets from a cough or a sneeze on another person or object and then touches their own eyes, mouth or nose before washing their hands.
How can you prevent influenza?
The first and most important step in preventing flu is to get a flu vaccine each year. The annual flu vaccine is for everyone 6 months of age and older. It’s usually offered between September and mid-November.
People who got the vaccine one year no longer has its protection the following year. That’s because the protection wears off and flu viruses change. This is why the vaccine is updated each year to include the most current strains of the virus.
You can reduce the risk of getting the flu or spreading it to others by:
- Washing your hands regularly with saop and water
- Promptly disposing of used tissues in a well covered bin
- Cough and sneeze into your shirt sleeve rather than your hands
- Stay at home when you feel sick
- Get an influenza vaccine
- Clean and disinfect objects and surfaces that a lot of people touch
Lifestyle changes and home remedies
If you get sick with the flu, home treatment can help ease symptoms. Follow the self-care advice below:
- To begin with, get enough plenty of rest
- Moreover, increase intake of fluids to replace those lost from fever
- Furthermore, avoid smoking and secondhand smoke
- Additionally, steam inhalation to help clear a stuffy nose
- Also, anti-influenza drugs or antivirals are available by prescription. Take it within 48 hours of the start of your symptoms for effective results.
- Last but no the least, non-prescription cough and cold medications are available for relief of symptoms but are not for children below 6 years.