Influenza, also known as the flu, is a respiratory viral infection. It is highly contagious and transmitted from one person through droplets when an infected individual coughs, sneezes or speaks. Influenza is a seasonal illness that typically peaks in the winter but can occur at any season.
Symptoms of influenza
The severity of influenza symptoms could range from mild to severe and can develop rapidly. Common influenza symptoms include:
- Sore throat
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Body aches
Influenza symptoms typically last 7 to 10 days, but cough and fatigue can linger for weeks after the initial illness. It is essential to note that not everyone infected with influenza will exhibit all of these symptoms, and some people may experience only mild symptoms.
Causes of influenza
Influenza virus is a highly contagious and widely transmittable virus. A, B, and C influenza viruses are the most prevalent. Seasonal flu outbreaks are caused by influenza A and B viruses, whereas influenza C viruses typically cause less severe respiratory symptoms.
Since influenza viruses can mutate or change over time, a new flu vaccine is created each year to protect against the strains that are anticipated to be the most prevalent during the upcoming flu season. Respiratory droplets transmit the virus created when an infected individual coughs, sneezes or speaks. Moreover, the virus can be spread by touching an infected surface and then rubbing your eyes, nose, or mouth.
How to treat influenza
There are several treatments for influenza, but the most effective method to prevent the disease is by receiving an annual vaccination. The flu vaccine is advised for everyone over six months, and it’s especially crucial for individuals who are more vulnerable to difficulties because of age, pregnancy, or illness.
If you catch influenza, there are a variety of treatments available to alleviate symptoms and facilitate recovery, including:
- Rest: Getting sufficient rest will allow your body to focus its energy on fighting off the infection.
- Fluids: Dehydration can make symptoms like a sore throat and congestion worse, so it’s important to drink enough water to stay hydrated.
- Prescription antiviral medication: If antiviral medications are taken within the first 48 hours of falling ill, they can help reduce the duration of symptoms and prevent complications. These medications prevent the virus from replicating within the body.
- Over-the-counter medication: Acetaminophen, ibuprofen, and aspirin can help relieve fever, headache, and body aches. Decongestants can help alleviate congestion.
Your doctor may prescribe antibiotics if they suspect you have a bacterial illness or if you get a secondary infection like pneumonia.
You can help stop the spread of influenza by taking many measures, including being vaccinated. Soap washing your hands or using an alcohol-based hand sanitiser will help reduce the transmission of the virus.
You can also reduce the spread of respiratory droplets by using a tissue or your elbow to block your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze. Staying away from sick people and staying home from school or work are also effective measures for stopping the spread of the virus.
Annual vaccination, excellent hand hygiene, and measures to prevent the spread of the virus can help reduce the incidence of influenza and its associated complications. Rest and hydration, as well as over-the-counter and prescription antiviral medications, can help alleviate influenza symptoms and accelerate recovery.