More about the Flu

The Flu, also known as influenza, is a respiratory infection that is caused by viruses. The infection results from influenza types A and B viruses. Flu is considered one of the most contagious respiratory illnesses. The virus is mainly spread when you come in contact with the sneezes or the coughs of an infected person. Other less common modes of transmission include shaking the hands of an infected person or touching certain objects or surfaces such as doorknobs, TV remotes, refrigerator doors, etc. Infected adults usually are contagious between 1 and 2 days before the onset of symptoms and up to 7 days of suffering from the infection.

In the US, the flu season peaks between December and February. Regardless of your location, you’ll realize that the flu virus is more prevalent during the dry and humid months. In fact, most people almost entirely believe it’s a cold season infection. The scientific explanation is that during cold and humid conditions, water droplets in the atmosphere fall to the ground. As these droplets fall from the air, they carry with them a horde of germs and viruses. And since the conditions are chilly, the droplets do not evaporate as quickly as they would during hot weather. Instead, they linger on for much longer, thereby exposing us to the germs and viruses they carry.

The difference between the “Flu” and a “Cold

The terms “flu” and “cold” are often used interchangeably. However, these conditions are quite different from each other. Symptoms of cold come on gradually and are more manageable. On the other hand, flu symptoms arise quickly and are usually very intense. The symptoms of cold and flu include a cough, a sore throat, and a runny nose. But to tell them apart, you’ll observe that the flu comes with additional symptoms. Some of these include;  

  • Fever
  • Headaches
  • Muscle and joint aches
  • Fatigue, and chills.
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Loss of appetite.

If not treated with urgency, flu could lead to complications like pneumonia and certain bacterial infections. High-risk groups include young children, adults aged 65 and over, as well as expectant mothers. While flu symptoms typically dissipate after a week or so, full recovery may take much longer. Be sure to contact your primary care provider as soon as you notice symptoms for proper diagnosis and treatment.

Contact your physician during the early onset of flu symptoms

Managing the Flu through a Primary Care Physician

During flu outbreaks, everyone is at risk of contracting the virus. When it occurs, you may try to alleviate the symptoms using specific home remedies and antibiotics. But remember that most of these remedies primarily treat the symptoms. You should understand how long flu symptoms last, and their extent of severity. That knowledge will help you know when to call your primary care physician. Your primary care physician will diagnose you for a broad spectrum of conditions, including conditions with symptoms that manifest in a similar manner as flu symptoms. The physician will also recommend the best line of treatment depending on factors like your age and medical profile. The best part is that you PCP will make due follow-ups to ensure you completely recover from the infection.

Generally, you should contact your primary care physician if you fall within any of the following categories;

  • Are pregnant,  
  • Are an adult aged 50 years or older,
  • Have a chronic illness, especially one that requires a long-term residency in a health facility,
  • Have a chronic heart or respiratory condition such as asthma and tuberculosis,
  • Have a compromised immune system, usually resulting from a surgery or terminal illnesses like cancer and HIV/AIDS, or
  • Have a metabolic disease such as anemia, kidney disease, or diabetes

Even if you do not fall within any of the above groups, you should still contact a primary care physician if you experience labored breathing, persistent productive cough, and severe lightheadedness. In the case of children, dehydration, irritability, and skin pallor are indicative of a situation in dire need of urgent medical intervention.

About the Influenza Vaccine

When it comes to flu infection, prevention is always better than cure. One way to keep safe from this infection is by taking an influenza vaccination. The influenza vaccine, also known as flu jabs or flu shots, is always a work in progress. That’s because there are many different strains of the flu virus and they are constantly changing. In some instances, the vaccine may vary from one region to another. That’s why researchers develop new versions of the vaccine each year, to help manage the specific virus in circulation at that time.

Issues have always been raised on the long-term health implications of vaccines. However, the influenza vaccine has been proven to be mostly safe and effective for people of all ages. It’s even recommended for people with egg allergies, despite the fact the vaccine is developed from eggs. However, there’s an exception for members of the four high-risk groups. These include children below two years, adults above 50 years, expectant mothers, and people with compromised immune systems. Another concern is the link between the vaccine and an increase in the incidences of Guillain–Barré syndrome, especially for older people. However, the chances of acquiring this syndrome are one case for every million doses.

How does the influenza vaccine work?

Like any vaccine, flu vaccine comes in a weakened dose of the virus. It’s administered in various methods, depending on your age and health.

The standard modes of administering the vaccine include;

  • Intramuscular – Injection into the muscle,
  • Intradermal – Injection into the skin or
  • Intranasal – Spraying into the nose.
Be proactive in fighting the flu before it gets too bad

Does flu vaccination work?

For the vaccine to work, it should be matched with the virus in circulation. If that happens, it can reduce your risks of contracting influenza by between 40 and 60 percent. Also, flu vaccination significantly reduces the severity of the symptoms. That way, it prevents unnecessary hospitalizations and repeat medical visits. This is especially helpful for people with already compromised immune systems. As a result, your productivity isn’t grossly affected even as you suffer from the virus.

Getting vaccinated significantly lowers the spread of the virus. However, when you receive influenza vaccination, it doesn’t mean that you’re entirely immune from the infection. You should still take proper precautions to prevent being infected. At all times, practice good health habits such as washing your hands regularly. Regularly clean and disinfect the objects that people frequently come into contact with, such as a computer mouse or doorknobs.  And as mentioned earlier, remember that each year comes with a new strain of the flu virus. Therefore, you should ensure the vaccine you get is one developed for the outbreak in that particular year.

The final Takeaway  

Every year different strains of flu virus causes wide spread respiratory illnesses ranging from mild occurrences to more serious infections that require hospitalization. The most effective way to battle possible infection is to follow up with your primary care physician to get your yearly flu shot. As more people are vaccinated, the chances for the virus to circulate within the community greatly decreases. Aim to receive vaccination during the fall prior to heavy influenza activity. Taking a proactive approach will save you from unpleasant discomfort and prevent you from losing precious time at school or work.

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