Influenza is a viral illness that commonly occurs in the fall and winter and affects many people at once. Flu is not the same as the common cold — the symptoms of flu are usually more severe and come on quite suddenly. Symptoms include fever (100-104 degrees), shaking chills, body aches, muscle pain, headache and pain when you move your eyes, fatigue, weakness and runny nose. Symptoms may last up to 10 days. Most other viral illnesses have milder symptoms that don’t last as long. Although a person with flu feels very sick, the illness seldom leads to more serious complications. However, flu can be dangerous for babies, older adults, and people with some chronic conditions.
Prevention. Get a flu vaccination. Depending on your age and medical conditions, you can get a flu shot or receive the flu mist. Get vaccinated annually if you or your family members are likely to be exposed to the disease through work, being around other children or if you just want to reduce the chance you and your family will catch the disease The vaccine can be given to anyone 6 months of age and older with the exception of those with certain allergies. Your health care professional will review this prior to administrating the vaccine.
Keep up your resistance to infection by eating a healthy diet, getting plenty of rest and exercising regularly.
Avoid exposure to the flu virus. Wash your hands often, and keep your hands away from your nose, eyes and mouth.
Home treatment for the flu includes getting plenty of rest and drinking extra fluids to replace fluids lost from fever, to ease a scratchy throat and to keep nasal mucus thin. Take Tylenol, aspirin or ibuprofen to relieve fever, headache and muscle aches.
You may want to call your health care professional if you want to take antiviral medication to reduce the severity of the flu. Medication is recommended for babies, older adults and people with chronic health problems. You may also want to call if you feel that you are developing signs of a bacterial infection or you seem to get better and then get worse again.
Information provided by Dr. Callie Waller, UnityPoint Clinic, Norwalk.