Flu: Symptoms, Treatment and Prevention

 

Burma Myanmar

Influenza, better known as flu, is a viral infection. We often use this term to describe any type of mild illness such as a stomach virus or cold that has symptoms similar to that of flu.

However, the real flu has symptoms worse than the usual cold and they last longer. Influenza does not cause diarrhoea or vomiting in adults. In most cases, flu resolves on its own, however, sometimes influenza and its complications can be severe and life threatening. People at higher risk of developing complications related to flu include:

  • Adults older than 65
  • Pregnant women
  • Young children under 5, and especially those under 2 years
  • Those who suffer from chronic illnesses, such as heart disease, asthma, diabetes and kidney disease
  • Residents of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities
  • People who are highly obese, and have a body mass index (BMI) of 40 or higher
  • People with compromised immune systems

 

Symptoms

At the onset, the flu may appear like common cold with symptoms such as sneezing, sore throat and runny nose. However, colds normally develop gradually, while the flu tends to start suddenly. Flu feels much worse compared to common cold.

Common symptoms of the flu include:

  • Fever over 100 F
  • Chills and sweats
  • Aching muscles, especially in your back, arms and legs
  • Headache
  • Fatigue and weakness
  • Dry, persistent cough
  • Sore throat
  • Nasal congestion

 

When to see a doctor

Most cases of flu resolve on their own and the patients can treat themselves at home, and usually do not need to see a doctor. However, if you are experiencing flu symptoms are at risk of some complications, you should see a doctor right away. If you take anti-viral drugs within first 48 hours of noticing the symptoms, you can not only prevent more serious complications, but also reduce the length of illness.

 

Treatment

Normally, if you have flu, you do not need anything more some bed rest and plenty of fluids. However, in some cases, the doctor may prescribe anti-viral medications such as Zanamivir and Oseltamivir. If taken within 48 hours of noticing symptoms they can shorten the illness by about a day or more, and help prevent complications. However, some anti-viral medications may cause side effects such as vomiting and nausea.

Flu can be managed by taking rest, drinking plenty of fluids, and some pain relievers to combat the aches, if required.

 

Prognosis

Prognosis of flu is great with most people not experiencing anything more than aches, pains, exhaustion and fever lasting for a week or two. However, the elderly and those with weakened immune systems need to seek urgent medical attention, and it can be more serious and lead to some complications.

 

Prevention

Flu vaccine is available for anyone above the age of 6 months. However, the vaccine is not 100 percent effective, and we need to take certain steps to reduce the spread of infections. These measures include:

Washing your hands properly and frequently. This is an effective way to prevent a variety of common infections. Using alcohol-based hand sanitizers can also be helpful.

Avoiding crowds: Wherever people gather, be it schools, office buildings, child care centers, public transportation or auditoriums, flu can spread easily. So, by avoiding crowds when the flu season is at peak (during monsoons in Myanmar), you can reduce the chances of infection. If you have contracted the infection, you should stay at home at least for 24 hours to avoid spreading the infection.

Contain your coughs and sneezes:  It is important to cover the mouth and nose properly when you cough or sneeze.

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