What is the Flu?

What is the flu or Influenza? As flu season arrives again, it’s probably good to know what this nasty little bug actually is.

Influenza, or flu, is a respiratory disease brought on by a virus. Flu is highly infectious and is normally spread by the coughs and sneezes of an infected individual. You could also catch flu by touching an infected individual, for example, shaking hands. This means that you can spread the influenza virus before you know you are infected.

It typically goes around from the autumn through spring months. There are numerous types, depending on the type of protein that the virus carries. Here are the most common:

Influenza A: One type of seasonal influenza occurring in birds and some mammals.

Influenza B: The other type of seasonal flu that occurs mostly in mammals and seals.

Influenza C: Much milder type of seasonal influenza which may produce local epidemics.

Avian Flu: Spreads from birds to people in Asia, Africa, and Europe.

Swine Flu: Known as H1N1, it spreads from pigs to people.

The flu doesn’t typically have long-term consequences in most people, and often resolves on its own. However, in rare situations, it can be fatal and causes 10,000 to 50,000 deaths a year. For that reason, it is important to stop it from spreading as far as possible.

Common symptoms of the flu include:

  • Fever
  • Body aches
  • Malaise
  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Dry cough
  • Less common symptoms of the flu (and more frequent at the common cold) are:
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Sore throat
  • Sneezing

Usually, symptoms persist for approximately 1 week. On the other hand, the sensation of fatigue and gloom can persist for many weeks.

It’s worth noting that not every single individual who has influenza is going to have all the symptoms; for example, it’s likely to get flu without fever.

Treatment

The best way to treat the flu is to not get it, via getting vaccinated. However, even with vaccination, you may end up catching the flu.

As flu is caused by a virus, antibiotics cannot help, unless the flu has led to a different illness caused by bacteria. Antivirals may be prescribed in some circumstances.

Painkillers can relieve some of the symptoms, such as headache and body pains. Numerous painkillers are available to buy online. It is very important to compare different products, and only take them under the advice of a health professional.

People with the flu should:

  • Remain at home
  • Avoid contact with others where possible
  • keep warm and rest
  • consume plenty of fluids
  • avoid alcohol
  • stop smoking
  • Eat if able