Influenza – The Flu
Influenza (the flu) is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses. Flu symptoms can range between mild to severe, with severe symptoms leading to hospitalization in some cases. Those at high risk for serious flu symptoms include young children, the elderly, and people with certain health conditions.
The flu typically hits us suddenly and acts quickly, so it’s important to recognize the symptoms when they start.
Flu Symptoms Include
• Sore throat
• Runny or stuffy nose
• Muscle or body aches
• Fatigue (feeling tired)
• Vomiting (typically most common in children)
Treating the flu early on can help you avoid complications. It’s important to note that you can have the flu without experiencing any fever symptoms. Don’t wait until you have a fever to get treatment for the flu.
Most people who catch influenza will recover within two weeks. However, the flue can lead to pneumonia which is life threatening. Pneumonia, bronchitis, sinus and ear infections are all complications of the flu.
If you suffer from a chronic condition you may find your symptoms are worsened during the flu.
High Risk from Flu
Serious complications related to the flu can happen to anyone at any age, despite how in shape or healthy you are. However, some people are at a higher risk of developing flu related complications than others. People at a higher risk include those over the age of 65, people suffering from chronic medical conditions, young children and pregnant women.
Chronic medical conditions affected by the flu include:
• Heart disease
Types of Flu
Despite getting a flu vaccine you may still catch the flu this year. That’s because there are a variety of influenza strains and they change quite frequently.
How mild or severe a flu season will be depends on a variety of factors like:
• What flu viruses are spreading
• How much flu vaccine is available
• When the vaccine is made available
• How many people get vaccinated that year
• How well the flu vaccine was matched to flu viruses causing illness
From 1976 to 2006 it was estimated that the US death rate associated with the flu ranged from 3,000 to 49,000 deaths. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 90 percent of the people who experienced flu related deaths were over the age of 65.
How Flu Spreads
Covering your mouth when you cough isn’t enough. The flu can spread up to 6 feet away, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The flu is most often spread through droplets made when we sneeze or cough. These droplets can spread onto the noses or mouths of the people who come into contact with when sick. You can also catch the flu by touching surfaces that contain the flu virus, though this is less common.
To avoid catching the flu the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend getting the flu vaccine each year. Those suffering from the flu should stay home to limit spreading the flu. If you come into contact with someone who has flu symptoms it’s important to wash your hands with soap and water before touching your mouth or nose.
Cdc.gov: “Influenza (Flu).” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention