Influenza, commonly known as the flu, is a contagious respiratory illness caused by the influenza virus. It can cause mild to severe illness, and at times lead to death. The flu is most common during the fall and winter months, but it can occur any time of year.
Causes: The flu is caused by the influenza virus, which is a rapidly changing virus. There are three types of influenza viruses: A, B, and C. Influenza A viruses are the most common and cause the most severe illness. Influenza B viruses are also common, but they usually cause milder illness. Influenza C viruses are the least common and usually cause mild illness.
Influenza (Flu) Symptoms
The flu typically comes on suddenly and can cause a variety of symptoms, including:
- Fever (usually 101 degrees Fahrenheit or higher)
- Body aches
- Sore throat
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Diarrhea and vomiting (more common in children)
The flu can lead to serious complications, especially in young children, older adults, and people with chronic health conditions. Some possible complications of the flu include:
- Sinus infections
- Ear infections
- Heart failure
- Worsening of asthma
- Myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle)
- Encephalitis (inflammation of the brain)
There is no cure for the flu, but there are treatments that can help relieve symptoms and shorten the duration of the illness. Antiviral medications can be used to treat the flu, but they must be started within 48 hours of the onset of symptoms to be most effective.
Over-the-counter medications can also be used to relieve symptoms of the flu, such as fever, aches and pains, and congestion.
In addition to medical treatment, there are some home remedies that can help relieve symptoms of the flu. These include:
- Getting plenty of rest
- Drinking plenty of fluids
- Using a humidifier or taking a hot shower to help relieve congestion
- Gargling with salt water to relieve a sore throat
- Taking over-the-counter medications to relieve fever, aches and pains, and congestion
The best way to prevent the flu is to get vaccinated every year. The flu vaccine is safe and effective, and it is recommended for everyone over the age of 6 months.
Other ways to help prevent the flu include:
- Washing your hands often with soap and water
- Avoiding close contact with people who are sick
- Covering your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze
- Staying home from work or school if you are sick
When to see a doctor
You should see a doctor if you have the flu and any of the following symptoms:
- Difficulty breathing
- Chest pain
- Severe cough or shortness of breath
- High fever (103 degrees Fahrenheit or higher)
- Vomiting or diarrhea that does not improve after 48 hours
The flu is a serious illness that can lead to complications, but it is preventable. Getting vaccinated every year is the best way to protect yourself from the flu. If you do get the flu, there are treatments and home remedies that can help relieve symptoms and shorten the duration of the illness.