Cold and Flu - December 2006
It could be a cold or is it the Flu?
What is influenza?
Commonly known as the flu, influenza is a viral infection of the nose, throat, and lungs which occurs almost every year, usually in the winter. These viruses cause more severe symptoms, and can cause more medical problems then a common cold virus. The elderly and those with chronic medical problems are more at risk for more severe flu symptoms or complications.
How can I catch influenza?
The flu virus is spread from person to person by droplets that are coughed or sneezed into the air. It can also be spread on the hands of an infected person who has touched their mouth or nose as well.
What are the symptoms?
Symptoms of influenza appear quickly. You can feel fine one hour and have a high fever the next.
Commonly, the first symptoms are:
Chills and fever (often 101 to 103 degrees)
Symptoms soon to follow may include:
-runny nose and nasal congestion
-eyes sensitive to light
Should I go to see a doctor?
Usually the symptoms of the flu can be managed at home . It is a good idea to notify your health care provider if you have flu-like symptoms and:
-You are over the age of 65
-You have a chronic medical problem such as heart disease, asthma, diabetes
-Your immune system does not work normally
-Your symptoms become more severe, or you have a painful productive cough.
How can I take care of myself at home with influenza?
1) Get plenty of rest
2) Drink plenty of fluids. Water , juice, and noncaffeinated drinks are best. Fluids help keep you hydrated during periods of a high fever. Also, fluids help the mucus in your sinuses and lungs to stay thin and easy to clear from your body. When the mucus is thin, then it is less likely to cause a sinus infection or bronchitis.
3) Take tylenol or ibuprofen to lower your fever and to relieve headaches and body aches. DO NOT take aspirin when you have flu-like symptoms because this could cause Reye's syndrome.
4) Use a decongestant if your nose or sinuses become congested. This will help to make you feel better and may possibly help prevent an ear or sinus infection.
5) A cough suppressant can be used to relieve your cough.
6) An antihistamine can be used to aid in a runny nose.
There are medications that your health care provider can prescribe which might make the symptoms of influenza less severe and not last as long. These medications need to be started within the first 48 hours of symptoms in order to be effective.
How long will this last?
Flu symptoms usually last between 3 and 7 days. They often start improving gradually after the first 2 days. Infection with the influenza virus can lead to other infections such as ear, sinus and bronichial infections. Pneumonia can also occur as a result of the flu. Pneumonia is a common cause of death in people over the age of 65 and often occurs during and after flu outbreaks.
What can I do to prevent influenza?
The best way to prevent getting the flu is to get a flu shot every fall. Because the flu virus strains varies from year to year, you need to get a new flu shot each year. Flu shots are usually about 70% effective in preventing the flu. Flu shots are available through the Student Health Center while supplies last.
Frequent hand washing , preferably with an antibacterial soap can also help you avoid the spread of the influenza infection.