Influenza, commonly known as the flu, is a highly contagious respiratory illness caused by the influenza virus. Every year, millions of people worldwide are affected by this infectious disease, leading to substantial illness, hospitalizations, and even deaths. Understanding the causes, symptoms, and available treatments for influenza is crucial in preventing its spread and minimizing its impact on public health.
Causes of the Flu
The influenza virus belongs to the Orthomyxoviridae family and is divided into three types: A, B, and C. Types A and B are responsible for the seasonal flu outbreaks that occur annually, while type C typically causes milder respiratory symptoms. Influenza spreads through respiratory droplets released when an infected person coughs or sneezes, or by touching contaminated surfaces and then touching the face. The virus quickly mutates, making it challenging to develop long-term immunity.
What are the Common Symptoms of the Flu?
Symptoms of the flu typically begin about 2-4 days after the influenza virus enters the respiratory tract and come on suddenly. These symptoms can include:
Body aches (e.g. muscle aches and headaches)
Cough and/or sore throat
Runny or stuffy nose
Vomiting and diarrhea
Those 65 and older and with chronic health conditions such as asthma, COPD, diabetes, and heart disease may be more likely to develop more severe symptoms including:
Persistent chest pain or pressure
Dizziness or confusion
Extreme weakness or lethargy
Difficulty staying awake
Flu Prevention Tips
Although there are many common flu myths, vaccination remains the most effective method of preventing influenza infection and is recommended annually before the flu season begins, around September or October. Research has consistently shown that the vaccine reduces influenza-related hospitalizations, deaths, and the spread of the virus within communities.Additionally, practicing good hygiene habits is essential in preventing the spread of influenza. Regular handwashing with soap and water or using alcohol-based hand sanitizers, especially before eating, or touching the face, can significantly reduce the risk of infection. It is also advised to cover the mouth and nose with tissues or the elbow when coughing or sneezing, along with avoiding close contact with people who are sick.
The diagnosis of the flu typically involves a combination of clinical evaluation and testing in senior primary care. Influenza can be detected as early as 1 day before symptoms develop and up to 5-7 days after symptoms start.
The rapid influenza (Rapid-Flu) test uses a sample from the nose to detect the virus and can be done in a clinic with results in about 10 – 15 minutes.
Flu Treatment Options
There are prescription antiviral drugs available to treat the flu, that work best when started 1-2 days of the onset of symptoms. These drugs can help lessen flu symptoms and shorten the time of illness by 1-2 days. Those at risk for severe illness can potentially avoid hospitalization and prevent the development of severe symptoms and complications such as pneumonia. Those with mild symptoms and lower risk for severe illness may not require prescription medications and symptoms will subside within 1-2 weeks. Supportive measures to help manage symptoms at home include the following.
Rest is essential for your body to recover from the flu. Ensure you get plenty of sleep and avoid overexertion.
Drink plenty of fluids, such as water, clear broths, herbal teas, and electrolyte solutions, to prevent dehydration. Hydration helps alleviate symptoms and supports the body's healing process.
Acetaminophen (Tylenol) or Ibuprofen can help reduce fever and discomfort. Follow the dosing instructions on the medication label or consult a healthcare professional for guidance.
Flu Treatment for Seniors at Greater Good
At Greater Good, we understand the unique needs of senior healthcare, and we’re dedicated to providing the best flu treatment and care. Take the first step towards a healthier future by choosing the senior health providers at Greater Good for your flu treatment.