What is flu?
The flu is a respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses, distinguishing it from the common cold or COVID-19. It transmits through airborne particles or surface contact and exhibits similar symptoms to a cold, but with a longer duration and potentially greater severity.
What causes flu?
There are four distinct strains of influenza viruses: A, B, C, and D.
Influenza A and B are accountable for the common flu and flu outbreaks among humans. Influenza A is more likely to trigger global pandemics. Both influenza A and B strains are included in the yearly flu vaccine.
Influenza C induces a mild illness in humans, without causing pandemics.
Influenza D primarily infects cattle and does not result in illness in humans.
Every year in the United States, millions of individuals contract the flu. While most people experience a mild illness and recover without complications, a significant number end up hospitalized due to the flu. Among these cases, numerous individuals, including children, unfortunately succumb to flu-related illnesses annually.
When is flu season?
Flu season can occur throughout the year, but it is predominantly prevalent during the autumn and winter seasons. Typically, the number of flu cases begins to rise in October, reaching its highest point between December and February.
Occasionally, there may be a second peak of flu activity later in the year, similar to what happened in 2019. Additionally, the flu season can sometimes extend into the spring months. The specific timeframe of the flu season varies annually, influenced by the circulating strains of the virus and the effectiveness of the vaccine.
What are the symptoms of flu?
Flu symptoms typically manifest more abruptly compared to those of a common cold and often exhibit greater severity.
Individuals with the flu may experience one or more of the following symptoms:
- A fever that persists for approximately 3 to 4 days
- Intense body aches
- Fatigue and weakness
- Chest congestion and a cough
Some individuals with the flu may additionally encounter symptoms like nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea, which are more prevalent among children.
Furthermore, the flu can also lead to sneezing, a sore throat, and a runny nose, although these symptoms are more commonly associated with a common cold.
How is flu diagnosed?
In most cases, healthcare providers can identify the presence of the flu based on the symptoms exhibited by individuals. However, there are instances where a flu test can provide valuable assistance.
Multiple tests are available for diagnosing the flu, and here’s what you should know:
- A positive flu test indicates the presence of the influenza virus.
- Flu testing can be performed using a nasal or throat swab, and sometimes a sample of respiratory tract phlegm may be collected.
- Rapid influenza diagnostic tests (RIDTs) are commonly utilized in many healthcare clinics as they provide quick results within 15 minutes. However, it’s important to note that RIDTs primarily detect influenza A and may occasionally yield false negatives, giving a false sense of reassurance.
- Other flu tests offer greater accuracy, but they require longer processing times. These include rapid molecular assays that can provide results within around 30 minutes, as well as viral cultures that may take a few days.
- It is crucial to understand that a flu test is not necessary to initiate treatment for the flu. Even without a positive test result, if your healthcare provider suspects you have the flu, they can still recommend appropriate flu medications and advise on home care.
What medication can be used for flu?
If you are self-managing your flu symptoms at home, there are various options available, including both over-the-counter and prescription medications.
Over-the-counter remedies encompass:
- Pain relievers such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen
- Throat sprays or lozenges to alleviate a sore throat
- Expectorant cough medicine containing guaifenesin to assist in clearing lung congestion
- Cough suppressants containing dextromethorphan to minimize coughing
- Decongestants with pseudoephedrine to relieve a runny nose
- Saline sprays containing saltwater to alleviate nasal congestion
Prescription medications called antivirals can also be prescribed to shorten the duration of flu symptoms by 1 or 2 days. Their effectiveness is greatest when administered within 48 hours of symptom onset.
Some commonly prescribed flu medications include:
It’s important to note that pharmacies may not always have these flu medications readily available, especially during the peak flu season. To locate flu medications that are in stock at a nearby pharmacy, MedFinder can be utilized.
Remember, antibiotics are designed to treat bacterial infections and are ineffective against viral infections such as the flu.
What treatment methods are used for flu?
When you are affected by the flu, the most effective approach is to prioritize rest, remain at home, and ensure ample fluid intake. Whenever feasible, maintain a distance from household members and practice frequent handwashing with soap and water.
To alleviate nasal congestion and coughing, home remedies such as using a humidifier, taking a hot shower, or inhaling steam can be employed. Adequate hydration, through drinking plenty of water, aids in loosening mucus in the nose and chest while providing relief for sore throats.
In the case of experiencing a fever, it is advisable, according to the CDC, to refrain from attending work, school, or public settings until being fever-free for a minimum of 24 hours.
The flu is a respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses. It is different from the common cold or COVID-19 and generally has a longer duration and potentially more severe symptoms.
The flu is caused by influenza viruses, while COVID-19 is caused by the novel coronavirus. Flu symptoms are typically more severe than those of a common cold and develop more abruptly.
Influenza A and B are the primary strains responsible for flu outbreaks in humans.
Flu season primarily occurs during the autumn and winter months, usually peaking between December and February.
Symptoms include a persistent fever, intense body aches, chills, fatigue, chest congestion, and cough. Some people may also experience nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea.
The flu is generally diagnosed based on symptoms, but various tests like Rapid influenza diagnostic tests (RIDTs) can confirm the presence of the influenza virus.
Remedies include pain relievers, throat sprays, expectorant cough medicines, cough suppressants, decongestants, and saline sprays.
Yes, antiviral medications such as Tamiflu, Xofluza, Relenza, and Rapivab can shorten the duration of flu symptoms when taken within 48 hours of symptom onset.
No, antibiotics are for bacterial infections and are not effective against viral infections like the flu.
Rest, staying hydrated, staying at home, and maintaining distance from others are primary recommendations. Over-the-counter medications and prescribed antivirals can also be used. Home remedies like humidifiers and steam inhalation can provide symptom relief.
The flu spreads through airborne particles or contact with contaminated surfaces.
MedFinder can be utilized to locate flu medications in stock at nearby pharmacies.
It is recommended to avoid public settings until you’ve been fever-free for at least 24 hours, as per the CDC’s advice.
No, influenza D primarily infects cattle and does not result in illness in humans.
The blog post does not specify vaccination frequency, but typically, annual flu vaccinations are recommended due to changing strains of the virus.