Quick Check: Fever, sore throat, ongoing fatigue, and severe headache. Can you relate to those? Chances are, you likely have the flu. Hundreds of people suffer from the flu each year; it’s common. And come on, it’s autumn.
Last year, the flu season was horrible. The CDC official estimated that about more than 80, 000 people died in the US — which is the highest in the last decade — and 900, 000 were hospitalized.
Each year, 5–20 percent of the Americans develop the flu. Public health experts warn that the condition can hit back. People who received treatment may be more prone to other health conditions — heart diseases and strokes in older adults.
What is the Flu?
Flu is the commonly known name of influenza — a virus that targets the respiratory tract of the body. Its symptoms start in the nose, mouth, and throat.
The Influenza Virus has Three Types
1. Type A Influenza — Which causes the annual epidemic and is contagious.
2. Type B Influenza — Which is less severe than Type A, with less severe symptoms.
3. Type C Influenza — Which affects nearly every adult and is not severe. Moreover, vaccination is not required for this type.
Type A and Type B influenza are more common, and vaccine shots are required.
The flu is contagious and can transfer from one person to the other through sneezing, coughing, or contact with anything contaminated with the virus.
Is the Flu Deadly?
The flu can cost you a few enjoyable moments with friends — bedridden and no out partying. But it can also be much serious.
Dr. Peter Shearer, Director of the Emergency Department at the Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, said that a few young, healthy people could also develop complications due to the flu.
He further explained that:
You’ve got a lot more mucus production, coughing, et cetera. It sets you up for possibly a bacterial infection [such as bacterial pneumonia] on top of [flu symptoms].
Those with pneumonia, “it will spread to their bloodstream and cause an overwhelming, multi-system infection.” Shearer said.
In short, people of any age are prone to develop the disease, but it can be fatal for:
The flu can lead to other health complications in younger children, such as cytokine storm — a condition of increased immune cell level that can further aggravate the problem. Studies have also shown that children aged 5–14 were 14 times more likely to develop the symptom of influenza than the older adult — those aged 60 or more.
The flu can risk mom’s life and cause birth defects in the baby. Due to changes in the body during pregnancy, expecting mothers can risk hospitalization and, in some cases, cause death.
Older adults can die from the flu infection because their weaker immune system is less likely to cope with the virus.
Thanks to the advancement in medical science, researchers and scientists have developed drugs and vaccines to treat the flu. Still, it can pose problems if left untreated.
What are the Symptoms of the Flu?
The symptoms can be abrupt and may vary according to a person’s age, current health condition, and the type of the virus. However, some of the common symptoms, according to the American Center for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC), are:
- High fever (102 or above)
- Persistent cough
- Sore throat
- Ache and pain in the body
- Severe headache
- Fatigue and weakness
- Vomiting and diarrhea (common in children and infants)
Complications Due to the Flu in Children?
The flu can lead to many health conditions in children. Some of them are:
Brain Defects: Maternal infections such as those from the flu can impact fetal brain development. Studies have also shown that children born can develop mental health problems.
Water Loss: Younger children can lose body fluid due to the flu, which may result in water imbalance. The body loses more fluid than it takes, which can lead to dehydration.
Bacterial Infections: The flu weakens the immune system that results in bacterial infections, such as:
1. Sinusitis — which is the inflammation of the sinus.
2. Otitis — which is the inflammation of the ear.
3. Pneumonia — which is the inflammation of the lungs.
Difference Between Cold and Flu
Both cold and flu are viral infections that can transfer from one person to the other. Although both have some common symptoms, there are still a few differences.
- Viruses that cause colds are different from those of the flu
- The symptoms of flu appear abruptly and usually last longer
- Influenza causes a high fever, while the cold doesn’t.
Is the Flu Contagious?
Yes, the flu is contagious. The problem starts in the mouth, nose, and throat — most of the time. You would cough, you would sneeze, and then you would release that virus-contaminated mucus. When people next to you inhale it, bam, the virus transfers to them. That mucus can also land on daily use items. When people touch those items, they get infected. According to the CDC, the flu can transfer from one person to the other a day before the symptoms appear and for as long as seven days after the infection.
Are you Immune to the Flu this Autumn?
Is your natural immune system stronger enough to protect you from the virus? The flu viruses change their strains regularly. So your immune system can only protect you against the same strain of the virus, but not against the one that has changed. That’s why vaccines are reviewed each year and updated, if necessary, to fight against the flu. Doctors suggest you get the vaccine each year.
If you’ve not gotten a flu shot, consider one immediately. Check out your nearest location to get vaccinated.