Influenza, commonly known as "the flu," is a highly contagious viral infection of the respiratory tract caused by RNA viruses of the family Orthomyxoviridae.
The flu virus found that it is more likely to spread at colder temperatures, when we cough or sneeze, microscopic droplets of water and the virus enter the air. Dry, cold conditions dry out the droplets, helping the virus linger in the air. The dry air also dries out nasal passages, which helps the virus stick. Cold dry air going over your nasal mucosa gets cracks in our airways and that allows virus to get in more easily. the flu weakens the immune system, making the body vulnerable to more serious infections, such as pneumonia.
Signs and Symptoms:
The flu is often confused with the common cold, but flu symptoms are usually more severe than the typical sneezing and stuffiness of a cold. Symptoms of the flu may include:fever,chills,headache,muscle aches, dizziness, loss of appetite, tiredness, cough, sore throat, runny nose, nausea or vomiting, weakness, ear pain, diarrhea.
After 5 days, fever and other symptoms have usually disappeared, but a cough and weakness may continue. All symptoms are usually gone within a week or two. However, it's important to treat the flu seriously because it can lead to pneumonia and other life-threatening complications, particularly in infants, senior citizens, and people with long-term health problems.
Spread by virus-infected droplets that are coughed or sneezed into the air, the flu is contagious. People infected with the flu are contagious from a day before they feel sick until their symptoms have resolved (usually about 1 week for adults, but can be up to 2 weeks for young kids). The flu usually occurs in small outbreaks, but epidemics tend to occur every several years. Epidemics (when the illness spreads rapidly and affects many people in an area at the same time) peak within 2 or 3 weeks after the first cases occur.
About the Flu Vaccine:
The flu vaccine usually is offered between September and mid-November, although it may be given at other times of the year. It reduces the average person's chances of catching the flu by up to 80% during flu season. Because the vaccine prevents infection with only a few of the viruses that can cause flu-like symptoms, it isn't a guarantee against getting sick. But even if someone who's gotten the shot gets the flu, symptoms usually will be fewer and milder.
Flu vaccines are available as a shot or nasal mist. Given as an injection, the flu shot contains killed flu viruses that will not cause the flu, but will prepare the body to fight off infection by the live flu virus. Getting a shot of the killed virus means a person is protected against that particular type of live flu virus if he or she comes into contact with it. Because the nasal mist contains weakened live flu viruses, it is not for people with weakened immune systems or certain health conditions. It is only for healthy, non-pregnant people between the ages of 2 and 49 years.
People who got the vaccine last year aren't protected from getting the flu this year because the protection wears off and flu viruses constantly change. That's why the vaccine is updated each year to include the most current strains of the virus. It can take about 2 weeks after the shot for the body to build up protection to the flu. Getting the shot before the flu season is in full force gives the body a chance to build up immunity to, or protection from, the virus. Although you can get a flu shot well into flu season, it's best to try to get it earlier rather than later.
Preventing the Flu From Spreading:
Here are some practical ways to help prevent the spread of the flu
1. Wash your hands thoroughly and frequently.
2. Never pick up used tissues.
3. Never share cups and eating utensils.
4. Stay home from work or school when you're sick with the flu.
5. Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze.
Cases of the flu rarely require specific medical treatment. These at-home tips can help most otherwise healthy kids cope with the flu. Have them:
- Drink lots of fluids to prevent dehydration, get plenty of sleep and take it easy.
- Take acetaminophen or ibuprofen to relieve fever and aches (wear layers, since the flu often makes them cold one minute and hot the next (wearing layers — like a T-shirt, sweatshirt, and robe — makes it easy to add or subtract clothes as needed