Influenza – Symptoms, Causes, Prevention & Diagnosis

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Influenza (flu) - Symptoms and causes
Influenza viruses cause the flu. When someone with the flu coughs or sneezes, tiny airborne droplets are inhaled.

What Is Influenza?

Influenza is also known as flu. It is a type of disease, which is caused by an RNA virus. These viruses infect the respiratory tract of animals, birds, and humans. Usually, people get symptoms like fever, cough, headache, and fatigue due to infection of this virus. Apart from this, symptoms like nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and sore throat are also found in some people.

Flu symptoms last about one to two weeks in most individuals. After that the patient becomes healthy. Flu infection makes a person more seriously ill than other viral respiratory infections (eg, colds). The mortality rate of persons infected with this virus is around 0.1%.

The above conditions are typical for the flu to spread in a particular season every year. However, sometimes the flu spreads very seriously. Its severe outbreak comes when such a part of the population is affected by it, whose immunity is very weak. This is because the flu virus has specifically modified itself. Such situations take the form of an epidemic.

Symptoms Of Influenza

Symptoms of flu (influenza) in adults and children

  • The patient may have a fever of 100 F to 103 F during infection, although the fever temperature in children can be even higher. Sometimes symptoms like flushing or sweating of the face can also be seen.
  • Chills
  • Respiratory symptoms, such as cough
  • Sore throat (more common in adults)
  • Runny nose or stuffy nose (especially in children)
  • Sneeze
  • Headache
  • Muscle pain (body pain)
  • Feeling extremely tired at times

However, during influenza infection, symptoms such as loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea are more common, especially in children. Gastrointestinal symptoms are sometimes seen. The term “stomach flu” is a myth, sometimes used for gastrointestinal illness. Gastrointestinal disease is caused by other microorganisms. Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea are more likely to be caused by the H1N1 virus than by the common flu virus. Depending on the severity of the infection, swollen lymph glands, muscle pain, shortness of breath, headache, chest pain, and dehydration may be observed in some patients. Even death can happen.

Most people infected with the flu recover within a week or two. However, some people may develop a dangerous disease like pneumonia. The flu kills about 36,000 people a year nationwide and leaves many hospitalized. The influenza virus can infect people of any age. However, the risk of influenza virus infection is increased in older people and people with chronic health problems compared to young and healthy individuals.

Causes Of Influenza

The best way to avoid the flu is to know its cause.

This disease is different from the common cold. Colds can be caused by more than 100 different types of viruses, while influenza viruses A, B, and C cause the flu.

Viruses A and B cause widespread seasonal outbreaks. The C virus causes symptoms related to breathing. The flu vaccine protects us from A and B viruses, while there is no treatment available for the C virus.

Flu virus A is also found in many animals, including ducks, chickens, pigs, whales, horses, seals, etc. The B virus affects only humans.

How is the flu (influenza) spread?

Flu is a highly contagious disease. The disease spreads through contact with an infected person or when he sneezes or coughs.

These viruses can enter our bodies through breathing or through kissing. We can come in contact with this virus by touching items like silverware, doors, handles, TV remotes, computer keyboards, and telephones.

These viruses enter our bodies when we touch our noses, eyes, and mouth with our hands.

Causes of the spread of flu in winter

This can be due to the following reasons –

  • Viruses tend to survive longer in winter, as there is less moisture in the air inside than outside.
  • When they are in the air in a living form, they easily pass into our body through the breath. Also easily come in contact with the eyes, nose, or mouth.
  • In the winter season, we spend most of the time indoors and are more in contact with each other. This condition helps the virus to spread easily.

How long does infection take

You can infect anyone with the flu up to seven days after symptoms appear. These viruses can be present in your mucus and sputum up to 24 hours before you feel sick. This means that you can infect another person as early as a day before symptoms appear. Young children can contract the flu in the second week after becoming ill.

Prevention Of Flu (Influenza)

Keeping in mind the dangers of the influenza virus, we must keep ourselves and our families safe. The virus is transmitted from person to person, so wash your hands often with soap or alcohol-based sanitizer to protect yourself. Avoid touching the nose and mouth.

The flu virus can survive on solid surfaces and objects for 2 to 8 hours. Keeping your safety in mind, use disinfectant wipes or sprays before touching commonly touched objects or places while working at home or office. If you are caring for someone infected with the flu, wear a face mask to prevent infection. An infected person should cover their mouth when coughing or sneezing.

Along with this, get the influenza vaccine (flu vaccine) every year. The flu vaccination is recommended every year for everyone except children under the age of six months. This vaccination protects us from the common flu virus. According to the US health protection agency CDC, however, this vaccine is not 100% effective. It reduces the risk of flu by only 50% to 60%.

The flu virus vaccine is put on our arms.

Diagnosis Of Flu (Influenza)

To diagnose the flu, your doctor will want to know whether you have been in contact with someone who has the flu. If yes, then he will want to know about the symptoms of the infected person (read above to know the symptoms of flu).

Usually, a rapid test (eg a nasopharyngeal swab sample) is done to find out whether the patient is infected with influenza virus A or B. Most tests tell the difference between virus A and virus B. If the test is negative, it means that there is no virus in our body, If the test is positive then it means that we may have A or B virus in our body.

If the test is positive for influenza virus A, the patient can get the common flu, or a more serious infection, such as the H1N1 virus (which causes swine flu). In most rapid tests, the genetics of the virus is detected by PCR technology. Some other “rapid influenza diagnostic tests” (rapid influenza diagnostic tests – RTDIs; rapid diagnostic tests for influenza) can detect influenza in 10 to 30 minutes.

Swine flu (H1N1) and other types of influenza such as bird flu or H3N2 are diagnosed by detecting proteins found on the surface of the virus or the genetics of that virus. You usually have to go to a test lab to get this test done. However, if you are very unwell and you are not in a position to go to the lab, the doctor can take the sample himself and send it to the lab.

Influenza Treatment

Flu is caused by a virus. Antibiotics cannot work during flu unless there is another disease caused by bacteria in our body. Antivirals, such as oseltamivir (Oseltamivir such as Fluvir) and zanamivir (Zanamivir such as Virenza), may be prescribed in certain circumstances.

Analgesics can reduce some of the symptoms of the flu, such as headache, and body aches. Painkillers such as aspirin should not be given to children under 12 years of age.

Take some precautions during flu

  • Stay at home.
  • As much as possible, avoid coming in contact with people.
  • Try to stay warm and rest as much as you can.
  • Drink plenty of fluids.
  • Don’t drink alcohol.
  • Do not smoke
  • Do eat some food.

If you live alone, be sure to tell a neighbor, friend, or relative that you have the flu so they can keep an eye on you from time to time.

Risks and complications of flu (Influenza)

Due to the increased risk of flu

  • Age – Children and the elderly are more at risk of flu spreading during certain seasons.
  • Living conditions – People who live in nursing homes, and military barracks are more likely to get influenza.
  • Weak immunity – Cancer treatment, anti-rejection drugs, corticosteroids, and HIV/AIDS weaken our immunity. Due to this, influenza infection can easily occur in our body and its risk can also increase. (Read more – How to increase immunity)
  • Chronic illness – Chronic chronic illness, such as asthma, diabetes, or heart disease, increases the risk of influenza infection.
  • Pregnancy – Pregnant women are more prone to influenza infection. Especially in the second and third trimesters. Women who are two weeks postpartum are also easily vulnerable to it.
  • Obesity – People who have a BMI level of more than 40 are more likely to be infected with influenza.

What to eat in flu (influenza)?

Better nutrients strengthen our immunity, which gives our body the strength to fight the virus. But when our body struggles with flu symptoms for days or even weeks, a nutritious diet is even more important to keep our body healthy.

Vitamins B6 and B12 enable our body’s immune system to function properly. Vitamin B6 is found in protein-rich foods, such as beans, potatoes, spinach, and cereals. We get vitamin B12 from meat, fish, and milk, which strengthens our body’s immunity.

Minerals like selenium and zinc also strengthen our immunity. We get these minerals from protein-rich foods, such as beans, nuts, meat, and poultry.

In case of cough or illness, you are advised to take this diet –

  1. Chicken Soup – Chicken soup has been recommended for hundreds of years as a remedy for the common cold because of its quality. It is an easy source of vitamins, minerals, calories, and protein. Chicken soup provides your body with a fair amount of nutrients when you are sick.
  2. Garlic – Garlic has been used as a medicinal herb for centuries. Garlic also acts as an antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal. This also increases the immunity to the disease.
  3. Coconut water – When you are sick, it is most important that you do not let the lack of water in your body. In such a situation, coconut water is the best drink. Apart from being sweet and delicious, it contains glucose and electrolytes, which make up for the lack of water in the body.
  4. Hot tea – Hot tea is a favorite remedy for many symptoms related to cold and flu. Like chicken soup, hot tea helps clear mucus from the nose and sinuses.
  5. Honey – Honey acts as an effective antibacterial due to the high amount of antimicrobial compounds. Some facts suggest that honey also increases our immunity. All these qualities make honey the best food to be consumed during illness. Honey proves especially effective when there is a sore throat due to bacterial infection.
  6. Ginger – Ginger is considered best for preventing nausea. Ginger works similarly to non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs; anti-inflammatory drugs). So if you are feeling nauseous or your heart is getting nervous, then ginger is the best and most effective remedy.
  7. Green vegetables – Your body needs all kinds of vitamins and minerals when you are sick, but this fulfillment is not possible with the simple food consumed by the patient. Green leafy vegetables such as spinach and lettuce are rich in vitamins, minerals, and fiber. They are especially good sources of vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K, and folate.