Are you feeling awful all of a sudden? Out of nowhere, you have a fever and aches all over? If you answered yes to these questions, you might have the flu. Read on to learn more about the influence of influenza, how fighting the flu can make you feel better, and how to keep your loved ones safe from catching the virus too!
What is the flu?
Influenza, the technical term for the flu, is a viral infection that predominantly affects your respiratory system. It's a type of upper respiratory tract infection (URTI or URI). The flu is usually not too serious, although you'll probably feel terrible. However, it can have deadly complications for at-risk groups: pregnant women, young children, people over 65, and people with certain medical conditions.
If you have any of the following symptoms, it's possible that you have the flu. You should consult a doctor to determine an appropriate course of action. To speak to one right now, click here. For tips that'll help you make the most of your consultation, see this advice from Dr. Phillips.
- body aches
- sore throat
- runny or congested nose
- headache (headache or migraine? how to tell the difference.)
- diarrhea and vomiting
You won’t necessarily have all of the symptoms. These are certainly typical indicators for most people, but some people can carry the virus and not feel any symptoms. Consider yourself lucky if you don't feel the effects of it! Regardless, you should engage in preventative behavior because you never know how you'll react to a particular strain of a virus. Furthermore, they constantly evolve: which is why a lot of research goes into developing a new vaccine every year.
How do you defend against it?
The best treatment plan for dealing with the flu is to try and not get it in the first place! Since it is viral, this is hard to do, but your best bet is to attempt to avoid it by constantly practicing good hygiene.
Here are a few tips and tricks that you should share with people in your life, for your sake and theirs. It's basically all about keeping things clean and reducing the opportunity for contact with common sources of germs:
- WASH YOUR HANDS! I capitalize this because it can't be said enough. This is far and away the easiest and most effective thing you can do to keep yourself healthy. Make sure you use anti-bacterial soap to wash your hands frequently throughout the day, particularly before you eat, after you use the toilet, and using any heavily trafficked public facility or infrastructure. Below is the Red Cross recommendation for proper handwashing technique:"Wet your hands with warm water, apply soap; Rub your hands together in a soapy lather, between your fingers and under your fingernails too, counting to 15 – away from the running water – (sing the ABC’s or Happy Birthday song); Rub all the surfaces of your hands: backs, insides and wrists; Rinse your hands off counting to 10; Pat your hands dry with paper towel or use a warm air dryer; If possible, turn off the taps with the paper towel; Dispose of the paper towel by putting it in the garbage near the sink."
- Avoid sick people. This one should go without saying. But of course, the caring person that you are tends to want to not treat sick people as pariahs. This is especially the case when a loved one is sick. You want to be there for them and care for them. Unfortunately, parents can't really do much about this since children need adults to look after them. Regardless, do your best to minimize exposure to sick people when you can.
- Be a skeptical sharer. Obviously this goes against how most people want to be with their friends and family... I'm not saying don't share. The team at RingMD loves sharing! Just be careful about how you share. For example, a lot of germs are in our mouths and on our hands. So think about how you can defend against this. When it comes to sharing food and drink, something that is essential to so many cultures, make sure use separate utensils or straws. With regard to using public amenities like phones, water fountains, or even TVs and computers, make sure to clean them of germs and bacteria before using them. Something as simple as wiping them down or using hand sanitizer after use should do the trick!
In addition, the world's most prominent health organizations, such as the World Health Organization (WHO), recommend getting vaccinated against the flu. Flu vaccines cause antibodies to develop in the body. These antibodies provide protection against infection from influenza with the viruses that are in the vaccine. There is an ongoing debate about the merits and consequences of vaccinations in general. That being said, health authorities are adamant that at-risk populations, such as children and the elderly, should get an annual vaccination for influenza. Depending on where you are, most clinics and pharmacies can provide you with this vaccination. For more information on the flu vaccine, see this link from the United States Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
I think I have the flu, what should I do?
You should consult a doctor. It's most likely that you have the flu, but you want to get a proper diagnosis so you can engage in the most effective recovery plan. Otherwise, you shouldn't leave your home or have any social commitments. The flu is contagious. A carrier of the virus is typically infected for 5-7 days after they begin to feel sick. In children, it can last even longer.
People infected with the flu can spread it to others from up to 2 meters away. Most experts think that flu viruses are mainly spread when people with the flu cough, sneeze or talk– catapulting droplets of moisture carrying the virus. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs. It’s also possible to get the virus by touching something that has the flu virus on it and then touching your own mouth or nose.
Use over the counter medication to suppress your symptoms. This will make your recovery a lot easier on you. There is no consensus in the scientific community whether any medication can actually cure the flu. Only rest over time can actually cure you of the virus. Most medical professionals recommend that you stay home for no less than 24 hours after your fever subsides except to get medical care or other necessities. Your fever should dissipate without any fever-reducing medicine, such as Panadol or Advil. That being said, you can take medications like these and solutions that work to soothe your cough and sore throat. You should definitely stay home from work or school because no one else wants to get sick!
Self-care and home remedies. Here a few quick tips for suppressing the suffering reaped to your nose and throat by the flu.
- Blow your nose as much as you can! Blowing your nose is one of the best ways to get excess mucus out of your sinuses and nasal passages when you are sick with the flu.
- Try a hot shower or bath to help to clear your congestion faster. Nasal and sinus congestion are common symptoms of the flu. The heat of the steam loosens mucus while the moisture helps to relieve dry nasal passages.
- Gargle with salt water. The water hydrates your sore throat and the antiseptic properties of the salt fight infection.
- Stay warm! Keeping your body temperature up will help speed up your recovery.
- Drink a lot of fluids. Blowing your nose a lot and sweating from your fever while also trying to keep warm causes you to lose hydration. You should be drinking much more than usual. Water is the safest bet. But if you're losing a lot of fluids from vomiting or diarrhea make sure to get replenish your electrolytes with electrolyte solutions or sports drinks.
Speak with a doctor online on RingMD. Why leave home to find a doctor if you don't have to? Can you have a doctor appointment online? Yes, consult a doctor online, right now! When appropriate, the doctor is able to provide you with a signed Medical Certificate (MC) if you need one for work or school reasons. Don't wait! See a doctor online, wherever you are.
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