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The influenza virus, also known as the “flu”, is a common virus that attacks the respiratory system. In the U.S., the flu season runs from the late fall months into the early spring. The flu can infect people of all ages, however those with weakened immune systems, such as children and senior adults, tend to be more susceptible.
Symptoms of Influenza
The flu virus can come with a variety of symptoms and affect each individual differently. It is common for flu symptoms to include all of some of the following:
- Runny nose
- Nasal congestion
- Body aches
- Loss of appetite
- Sore Throat
- Swollen Lymph Nodes
Commonly, the flu lasts anywhere from 2 to 7 days. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms and fear you may be infected with the flu, we suggest you stop in for a test.
Prevention of Influenza
Although the flu is highly contagious there is a vaccine, in the form of a flu shot or flu mist, to help prevent infection. The flu vaccine is an extremely important vaccine, especially for children and senior adults who are more at risk for infection. We encourage patients to get an updated flu shot each year for optimal protection.
Although the flu shot works to prevent infection, different strains of the flu virus exist and the flu vaccination cannot guarantee protection. The best way to prevent the spread of the flu is through proper precautions. Washing hands, covering your mouth and nose when you cough and sneeze, and keeping countertops, door knobs, and other shared spaces clean goes a long way to prevent the spread of flu germs.
Much like a cold, there is no cure for the flu. If you are diagnosed early you may be a candidate for prescription antiviral medications that can aid in shortening the duration of the flu. The most popular antiviral medication is Tamiflu. Unfortunately, for Tamiflu to be effective, it must be taken within 48 hours of the onset of symptoms. Below are a few things you can try at home to shorten the duration of symptoms:
- Get plenty of fluids- It is important to stay hydrated, so up your intake of liquids such as water and gatorade. Fluids help thin your mucus which will allow your sinuses to drain better.
- Sleep and rest as much as possible- Your body needs the strength to fight off the virus, so sleep and rest is crucial. Park yourself in your bed or on the couch and try to catch as many z’s as you can.
- Eat when possible- Keeping your body strong is important, but don’t force yourself to eat if you do not have an appetite. Drinking is much more important, so even if you don’t feel like food, keep up the liquids.
- Stay away from alcohol or smoke- It is no secret that alcohol causes dehydration. For this reason, it is important to stay away from alcohol while sick. Dehydration will make flu symptoms, such as congestion, much worse. Additionally, smoking damages cells in your lungs, making it more difficult to fight off the infection.
- Take over the counter medications when needed- Over the counter medications will not offer a cure, but they can certainly ease or mask your symptoms.
The influenza virus is very common, however it can be life threatening. If you think you may be suffering from the flu, call us today to schedule an appointment.