Discover the signs and symptoms of Influenza from the experts at Medcare
16 January 2019| Last updated on 17 January 2019
Influenza is an acute respiratory illness caused by influenza A or B viruses that occurs in outbreaks and epidemics worldwide, mainly during the winter season.
Although the presentation can be severe, influenza is a self-limited infection in the general population; however, it can be associated with increased morbidity and mortality in certain high-risk populations.
Signs and symptoms of upper and/or lower respiratory tract involvement are present, along with indications of systemic illness such as fever, headache, muscle pain, and weakness.
What are the most common flu symptoms?
It is important to differentiate influenza symptoms from symptoms of the common cold. The symptoms of influenza are usually more severe and of acute onset.
The most common presentation of influenza is the following:
- Fever (temperature higher than 100ºF or 37.8ºC)
- Extreme tiredness
- Headache or body aches
- Sore throat
- Runny nose
- Sometimes diarrhea and vomiting
How flu spreads?
Flu viruses spread mainly by tiny droplets made when people with flu cough, sneeze or talk. Less often, a person might get flu by touching a surface or object that has flu virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose or possibly their eyes.
Period of contagiousness
People with flu are most contagious in the first 3-4 days after their illness begins. They can as well pass on the flu before they know they are sick.
What are the complications of the flu?
Flu can cause mild to severe illness and sometimes can lead to death. The flu complications include bacterial pneumonia, ear infections, sinus infections and worsening of chronic medical conditions such as congestive heart failure, asthma, or diabetes…
Who are the people at high risk of flu complications?
People at high risk of flu complications include:
- Very young children (younger than 5 years of age)
- People 65 years and older
- Pregnant women
- People of any age with certain medical problems (such as asthma, diabetes, or heart disease)
Is there a test for flu?
Yes. There are many tests available to diagnose flu. A rapid influenza swab test taken from the back of the nose and/or the throat is most commonly used in the clinic setting.
Can flu be treated?
It is important to stay hydrated, rest and take acetaminophen for symptomatic relief.
When indicated, treatment with antiviral drugs can be used but should be initiated within the first 48 hours of illness for optimal effect. Antibiotics do not work on the flu.
Can flu be prevented & how?
Yes, flu can be prevented. The first and most important step is to get the flu vaccine every year. Flu vaccine has been shown to reduce flu related illnesses and the risk of serious flu complications that can result in hospitalization or even death.
Another important preventive measure is frequent hand washing with soap and water or with alcohol-based hand cleanser. Finally avoiding close contact with sick patients can help preventing the spread of the infection.
Who can get the flu vaccine?
Inactivated influenza vaccine is recommended annually for all individuals of more than 6 months of age including pregnant women.
Authored by by Dr. Saria Al Hashem
Specialist Family Medicine
Medcare Medical Center- Al Barsha