Becky Yoza, DNP

Becky has 14 years combined experience in medical/surgical and emergency nursing. She also teaches undergraduate and graduate nursing at Hawaii Pacific University. Originally a sociologist, Becky trained as a nurse to gain knowledge for her research, but she ended up loving nursing so much she never went back! Born and raised in Michigan, Becky has lived in Hawaii since 2010 and never wants to leave.


Influenza, Flu Symptoms and Treatment

The flu is an illness caused by the influenza virus. It is important to note, other viruses can cause flu-like symptoms too. Most cases of the flu occur seasonally, usually an eight-week period in the winter. Flu symptoms and treatment are detailed below.

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What Is The Flu?

Three types of influenza viruses exist: A, B and C, with a different strain causing the seasonal outbreak each year. This article will discuss flu symptoms and treatment.

What Is Swine Flu?

A strain of Type A influenza virus, known as H1N1v, causes Swine flu. Along with the common symptoms, one will experience nausea and vomiting. Diarrhea is also a symptom as well. In fact, Swine flu affects children and young adults.

What Are Flu Symptoms?

Typically, symptoms get worse the first two days and get better after that. Sometimes with a cough persisting for a week more. Although, it usually takes less than a week to recover. A few people need hospitalization. This is because of complications that develop because of the flu. Symptoms include, for instance:

  • Fever.
  • Body aches.
  • Sweating.
  • Sore throat and dry cough.
  • Sneezing.
  • Nausea.
  • Headaches.
  • In infants, there could be lethargy and drop in feeds. Furthermore, there could be difficulty breathing and febrile convulsions with fever as well.

How Do You Catch The Flu?

The flu is contagious. It spreads via water droplets from an infected person’s cough or sneeze. In brief, the virus can be airborne or passed along through contaminated surfaces.

Serious Illnesses Similar To The Flu

Serious illnesses have symptoms like the flu when it starts. They include meningitis, malaria, and pneumonia for instance. Be sure to contact a doctor if you have any of the following symptoms beside the flu-like symptoms. Symptoms such as:

  • Stiffness in the neck. Especially if you have difficulty in bending your neck forward or backward.
  • A headache that does not get better and instead keeps getting worse.
  • Rash, especially if they are on the face and do not fade upon being pressed.
  • Light sensitivity.
  • Confusion.
  • Drowsiness.
  • Frequent vomiting.
  • Coughing up blood or blood-tinged phlegm.
  • Chest pain.

Hence, tell your doctor about all your symptoms. Inform them of any recent visits outside the country. Especially to countries where malaria is prevalent.

Flu Treatment

Generally, the flu does not need any specific treatment. Rather, treatment is for managing symptoms and preventing complications. For instance:

  • Take rest and stay at home to avoid spreading the virus.
  • Take Paracetamol/Ibuprofen for fever and body aches.
  • Drink lots of fluids.
  • If needed, use throat lozenges, decongestant drops, and saline nasal drops.

There are antiviral medicines like Oseltamivir (Tamiflu®) and Zanamivir (Relenza®). These can prevent complications and reduce the severity. It is unnecessary to take antiviral medicine, as they do not kill the virus but deter its growth. As a result, reducing the duration of the illness. Sometimes, as follows, one may get prescribed an antiviral. For example:

  • It is flu season, and the community has had many cases of it.
  • Admission into the hospital with the flu.
  • If you have been in close contact or share with a person who has the flu.

Take antiviral medicines within 48 hours of having flu-like symptoms. In addition, take medication after being in contact with an infected person. Also, children prescribed Zanamivir must take it within 36 hours of onset.

Do Antibiotics Treat The Flu?

Antibiotics work by killing bacterial infections. They do not work on viral infections. Typically, antibiotics are not used to treat the flu. However, they may if other complications develop. Complications include pneumonia and chest infection.

What Are The Possible Complications Of The Flu

Generally, if you are healthy, you will most likely recover from the flu, completely. You should track your symptoms and visit a doctor if they get worse. In the frail or elderly, complications may include developing pneumonia. This is serious. It requires antibiotic treatment. Indications of pneumonia include, for instance:

  • Recurring high fever.
  • Breathlessness.
  • A cough that keeps getting worse.
  • Rapid breathing.
  • Chest pain.

Other complications include sinusitis and ear infections. Also, in rare cases encephalitis as well.

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