Protect Yourself From The Flu

Protect Yourself From The Flu

According to the CDC, Influenza (also known as the flu) is a contagious respiratory illness caused by viruses. It can cause mild to severe illness, and at times can lead to death. The flu is different from a cold. The flu usually comes on suddenly. People who have the flu often feel some or all of these symptoms:

  • Fever* or feeling feverish/chills
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue (tiredness)
  • Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in children than adults.

* Not everyone with flu will have a fever.

Flu Complications

Most people who get influenza will recover in a few days to less than two weeks, but some people will develop complications (such as pneumonia) as a result of the flu, some of which can be life-threatening and result in death.

Pneumonia, bronchitis, sinus and ear infections are examples of complications from flu. The flu can make chronic health problems worse. For example, people with asthma may experience asthma attacks while they have the flu, and people with chronic congestive heart failure may experience worsening of this condition that is triggered by the flu.

People at High Risk from Flu

Anyone can get the flu (even healthy people), and serious problems related to the flu can happen at any age, but some people are at high risk of developing serious flu-related complications if they get sick. This includes people 65 years and older, people of any age with certain chronic medical conditions (such as asthma, diabetes, or heart disease), pregnant women, and young children.

What are the emergency warning signs of flu sickness?

In children

  • Fast breathing or trouble breathing
  • Bluish skin color
  • Not drinking enough fluids
  • Not waking up or not interacting
  • Being so irritable that the child does not want to be held
  • Flu-like symptoms improve but then return with fever and worse cough
  • Fever with a rash

In adults

  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
  • Sudden dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Severe or persistent vomiting
  • Flu-like symptoms that improve but then return with fever and worse cough

It may have started with a cough or a sneeze, or you may feel like someone beat you with a stick. Achy muscles, respiratory symptoms and a sudden fever all point to influenza and you – or your child – are down for the count. Below are five things you can do to find some relief.

ANTIVIRALS: The CDC recommends the antiviral drugs oseltamivir (Tamiflu), zanamivir (Relenza), or peramivir (Rapivab). Oseltamivir, which is taken by mouth, is approved for treating flu in those over 2 weeks of age and preventing flu in people one year of age and older.

ANALGESICS: Pain and fever relieving medications such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen – sold under brand names such as Motrin, Advil, Tylenol and others – can reduce fever and help with muscle aches. Patients with asthma, high blood pressure or other chronic conditions should check with a doctor before taking them. Children should never be given aspirin – it can cause a deadly reaction called Reyes Syndrome.

FLUIDS: Dehydration is a special risk when people are ill and feverish. The Health and Human Services Department recommends plenty of clear fluids such as water, broth or sports drinks. If you have an upset stomach, try sipping through a straw. The really sick may suck on small ice cubes or ice pops. And drinking can soothe a sore throat.

OVER-THE-COUNTER REMEDIES: Decongestants and antihistamines can help the most annoying symptoms of a cold or the flu – the runny or congested nose and some cough caused by post-nasal drip. Antihistamines can also help many people sleep. Cough drops or hard candies can soothe a scratchy throat, although they should not be given to young children who might choke. Cough remedies containing the suppressant dextromethorphan may help but most contain too little to do much good.

STAY HOME AND REST: If you have symptoms of flu or a bad cold, or another virus such as norovirus, the best thing you can do for yourself and others is stay home and rest. You won’t spread your germs that way and you’re unlikely to be effective at work or school, anyway. And if you’re caring for someone who is infected, keeping the patient confined to one room and keeping that room clean can help prevent the spread of infection. Humidifiers or a steamy shower may help people breathe more easily. And gargling with warm salt water can also soothe a sore throat.

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