What is the Flu and what are its symptoms?

What is the Flu?

Getting sick can be very disconcerting, your body aches, your throat is sore and it feels like doing just about anything will take up all of your remaining energy. Often, you may have contracted the flu virus, though you will probably know whether or not you have the flu by the symptoms this illness portrays. So what is the flu and how do I know whether or not I have contracted it? Flu is a viral infection that has been circulated to nearly every corner of the globe. The flu virus works by attacking the lungs, nose and throat of the person infected, which results in mild to severe symptoms occurring. 

As the lungs, nose and throat are the parts of the body that are often attacked by the virus, flu symptoms are generally located in these regions of the body. You will find that your nose is funny, your throat is sore and inflamed and your chest may be sore if the virus has moved from your throat to your chest. The flu virus moving into your chest can be quite dangerous, which is why many people try to treat the flu symptoms as soon as possible. While there is no cure for this viral infection, you can find ways to help manage your flu symptoms. 

What are the Symptoms of Flu?

Flu-like symptoms are important to recognise as they can help you to determine whether you have flu or have just caught a simple cold. These two types of illnesses often have very similar symptoms, and many would not even know whether they had a cold or caught the flu unless they were tested. Looking at the symptoms you have and assessing whether or not you have the flu is important as it does impact how contagious you are. The following are just a few things to consider if you have developed flu symptoms. 

Influenza Contagious Period

It is important to know when you are most contagious when you are diagnosed with flu as this is the time over which you are most likely to spread the disease to others. When your flu symptoms develop, you are the most contagious and most often, you are able to spread the disease within the first 1 to 4 days of the flu symptoms developing. While this is the most common period for the flu virus to be spread, the day before your symptoms develop you are also often contagious. This is one of the most dangerous periods when it comes to the influenza contagious period as you are not aware that you are sick and are more than likely not being as careful as you should be. Over this period where the viral infection is most contagious, it is important to try and isolate yourself as much as possible. By wearing a mask, avoiding close contact with others and ensuring that you are sanitising your hands and disinfecting surfaces throughout the day, you can avoid spreading the flu virus. 

The Onset of Flu Symptoms

The first flu symptoms are typically a fever and headache, which usually appear 1 to 3 days after coming into contact with the virus. The next things that are typically associated with flu symptoms are a sore throat and a bad chest cough. Throughout the period where your symptoms are quite bad, it is also normal to experience quite bad body aches and pains that spread throughout your body, making you feel lethargic and tired. While you are battling flu symptoms, it is important to remember that one of the best ways to fight off the flu is to rest as much as possible. Resting and drinking as many fluids as possible will help your immune system to function effectively while the flu symptoms dissipate. 

The flu symptoms typically last anywhere from 3 to 7 days, though most people experience the symptoms for around 5 days. While symptoms lessen, you may still find that you are quite tired and this is completely normal, it often takes an extra two or so days to fully recover from the viral infection! If your symptoms continue to persist for longer, you may have a super flu. Super flu symptoms are often worse than regular flu and they do tend to take longer to clear up.

People at High Risk of Influenza

As with many illnesses and diseases, there are certain groups of people who are most at risk of having severe and life-threatening symptoms. How your body fights off an infection like flu will largely depend on how strong your immune system is. If your immune system is in peak form, you will generally only have mild symptoms that will clear up after spending a few days in bed recuperating. Those who are immunocompromised or who do not have such a strong immune system are most at risk of severe diseases. Babies and the elderly often have a higher risk of having a more severe onset of symptoms as their immune systems are weaker than others. With a weakened immune system, you will not be able to effectively fight off the virus which puts you at risk of severe disease. 

Another group of people who are at high risk of severe illness are those with diseases that have compromised their immune systems. These diseases do not allow for the immune system to function effectively, which results in illnesses like flu potentially having life-threatening consequences. As your body is not able to fight off the virus, flu symptoms may progress and get to a point where you are struggling to breathe or even walk around. If you are within these groups of people, if you start to feel extremely ill it is important to see a health care provider immediately. Those within these high-risk groups need to take extra care to avoid contacting the flu virus and should be using all preventative measures put in place. 

How to Prevent Seasonal Flu?

As flu is a common virus that spreads through areas quickly, it is important to know the steps that you and your family should take to avoid contracting it. One of the easiest and most effective ways that you can prevent catching the flu virus is by ensuring that you are as hygienic as possible, particularly in places where many people may come into contact with one another. Using hand sanitisers to sanitise your hands after having been in contact with high-touch surfaces can help prevent any germs from spreading from your hands to your mouth, they will be ingested and potentially infect you. As the flu virus is often located on surfaces and can survive for around 24 to 48 hours, using wipes for surfaces can help to remove any germs that may be sitting on objects. Carrying these wipes around with you and cleaning the high-touch surfaces before you come into contact with them can prevent you from catching the virus. These wipes can also be used after you have come into contact with a surface to ensure that if you have flu germs on your hands, you are not spreading them. 

Another way that you can prevent yourself from catching the flu is to ensure that you get your seasonal flu vaccine. The Australian Government Department of Health has confirmed that flu vaccines are extremely beneficial as they can prevent severe disease. While this does not prevent you from catching the germs, the antibodies within the flu vaccine do help your body to quickly fight off the infection, meaning that you will generally be sick for a shorter amount of time and also be contagious for less time. Flu shot symptoms are generally very mild if you have them at all, so getting a shot to prevent these extreme flu symptoms can be a great way to better protect yourself. 

How to Diagnose Influenza A/B?

One of the ways to diagnose influenza A/B is by assessing your symptoms. Cold and flu symptoms are often very similar so it is important to know what the most common symptoms are associated with the flu virus. One of the best ways to check whether you have the flu or just a cold is to take your temperature. One of the most common flu symptoms is a high temperature and any temperature above around 38 degrees celsius may mean that your body is fighting to ward off the viral flu infection. 

Since flu symptoms, cold and covid symptoms are very similar, it is often best to take a test to find out whether you have this viral infection. There are Influenza A/B and Covid-19 Rapid test kits that can be used to test whether you have either influenza A or influenza B as these are the two most prominent strains of the virus around. These test kits will supply you with vital information on whether or not you have caught the flu or are just battling a bit of a cold. Rapid tests are however antigen tests and they measure your body's response and production of antibodies, so it is important to only take these kinds of tests after flu symptoms have developed. 

What are the Causes of Flu?

Influenza is a virus that can lead to severe respiratory issues for those who are infected. The causes of flu spreading as it has throughout the world is largely from people catching the virus due to unhygienic practices. The viral infection can last on surfaces for around 24 to 48 hours, meaning that if someone coughs, sneezes or blows their nose near an object, the infected droplets can travel through the air and land on surfaces. If these surfaces are not regularly cleaned, another person may touch them and then their mouth, leading to them becoming infected with the flu virus. 

While flu is not spread through the air, they do travel as water droplets and can infect others if a person is standing and talking in front of someone. This close contact and bad hygiene practices have led to a significant increase in the spread of the virus. As flu is located in nearly every corner of the globe and is known for its many different strains that have developed, it is possible to catch it more than once. This also makes it very easy for the virus to spread through a home, office or school! 

What are the Risk Factors for Influenza?

One of the main risks of having flu A and B is associated with the viral infection moving from your throat and nose and into your chest. Once the virus hits your chest it often leads to the infected person struggling to breathe or being unable to catch their breath. This is combined with pain in the chest area that can get quite severe. If you have contracted the flu and are feeling like you are short of breath or struggling to breathe, you should immediately get to the hospital as they can hook you up to oxygen that will help ensure you are receiving enough oxygen. 

What are the Treatments for the Flu A/B?

The flu, or influenza, is a viral infection that affects the respiratory system. Since Flu A/B is a viral infection and not bacterial, there is no known cure for those who are infected. While those with bacterial infections can take a course of antibiotics, viral infections do not respond to this type of medicine.  If you think you have the flu, it is recommended to consult with a healthcare provider. They will be able to determine if you have the flu, and if so, what treatment options are best for you. It is also important to note that if you are experiencing severe symptoms, such as difficulty breathing or chest pain, you should seek medical attention immediately.

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