How to protect yourself from catching the flu?
Influenza, more commonly referred to as the flu, is a highly contagious viral infection that almost everyone will get at least once in their lives. In fact, most people will catch it more than once, especially when they are younger.
The flu virus affects the respiratory system, causing symptoms in the nose, throat, lungs, and airways. Most people who catch the flu will feel very ill for a few days before making a full recovery, all without ever needing medical treatment. Home remedies and over the counter medications can provide relief while they recuperate at home.
For others, however, the flu can be a very serious and even deadly illness. Each year, millions of people worldwide die from complications relating to the flu. Complications are more common in vulnerable parts of the population, but even otherwise healthy people can succumb to the flu.
There is no cure for the flu, but the widely available flu vaccine can help stop the spread of the virus and keep at risk groups safe. There are also antiviral medications that can be prescribed to people with severe symptoms.
Symptoms of the Flu
Sometimes people mistake common cold with influenza. The two conditions do share some similarities but are very different diseases. One of the ways the flu separates itself from a common cold is how fast the symptoms come on. When you get the flu, symptoms will appear quickly and without warning. They will also be far more severe than the initial symptoms of a cold.
A cold can be miserable to experience, but the flu will often stop you in your tracks. You’ll find it extremely difficult to go about your daily activities and will most likely need to stay in bed resting until your symptoms subside.
Common symptoms of the flu include:
- Fever and chills
- Muscle aches and pains
- Sweating and night sweats
- A dry cough
- Trouble breathing
- Sore throat
- Runny, congested nose
- Eye pain and red eyes
Children may experience these symptoms as well as gastrointestinal upset like vomiting and diarrhoea. Fevers tend to be higher in children as well.
Causes of the Flu
The flu is a caused by influenza viruses which tend to spread quickly and easily, affecting large groups of people at once. These viruses can be airborne as well as exist on surfaces. You may become ill after inhaling droplets of the virus after a person with the flu coughs or sneezes. You can also become ill if you touch a surface that someone with the flu has recently touched then you touch your eyes, face, or mouth before washing your hands. Surfaces that can be breeding grounds for the virus include door handles, computer keyboards, mobile phones, and stair railings.
People with the flu become contagious as soon as symptoms appear and will continue to be contagious for several days. Young children may be infectious for a longer period of time. If you or your children become ill, you should stay at home to reduce the spread of the virus.
There isn’t just one influenza virus. There are several strains in existence, with most in a constant state of flux and evolution. Because of this evolution, people who get the flu vaccination will need to get a new one each year. New strains of the flu can be completely different from ones you’ve had in the past or have been inoculated against previously.
Prevention of the Flu
Those who are young and in good health will usually get over the flu within a week without any complications. Others may end up experiencing complications like asthma flare ups, difficulty breathing, bronchitis, and pneumonia.
People most at risk of flu complications are:
- Children and babies under the age 2
- Adults over the age of 65
- Women who are pregnant or plan to become pregnant
- People with compromised or lowered immune systems
- Residents of care homes and other long-term care facilities
- People allergic to the flu vaccine
- Those who are overweight or obese
- People with underlying and chronic conditions like kidney disease, asthma, heart disease, and diabetes
- People who have chronic illnesses, such as asthma, heart disease, kidney disease, liver disease and diabetes
To protect yourself as well as these groups of people and the wider community, you should take steps to prevent the spread of the flu. By doing so you’ll not only be saving yourself from several days of misery, but you’ll be helping the more vulnerable parts of the population. You should:
- Wash your hands frequently for at least 20 seconds with soap and warm water
- Cover your mouth with a tissue or the crook of your arm when you cough or sneeze
- Avoid touching your face
- Carry hand sanitiser with you and use it after touching public or communal surfaces
- Wear a mask when you’re in a large crowd or in poorly ventilated areas, especially during flu season
- Stay home while you’re sick and limit contact with other people
- Get the flu jab each year
These methods should still be utilized even if you get vaccinated against the flu. No vaccines are 100% effective and some people are unable to get the vaccination.
Treatment of the Flu
The majority of people who get the influenza virus won’t need any kind of medical treatment other than rest and a bit of TLC. Antibiotics aren’t useful in the treatment of the flu because it’s a viral infection. However, if you have symptoms of the flu and are in an at-risk group, contact your GP or pharmacist to discuss medication options.
There isn’t a cure for the flu, but antiviral medications can reduce your symptoms to give your immune system a break and help you get better faster. Antiviral medications will also reduce the likelihood of you suffering serious complications.
Two common antiviral medications are:
- Relenza: An antiviral that reduces the symptoms of the flu and gives you added protection during flu outbreaks.
- Tamiflu Tablets (oseltamivir): This medication is used to treat symptoms of the flu and can shorten recovery time by up to 2 days. It can also be used to help prevent the flu if you’ve been exposed to the virus.
People in the UK who want to treat the symptoms of the flu or prevent themselves from getting ill can visit Pharmacy Planet to buy antiviral medications online. Order Tamiflu Tablets and Relenza online in the UK with swift home delivery.