Monday, September 1, 2008

Facts about Flu and its Treatment

Your head aches, and so does every bone in your body. You're cold one minute and hot the next. Your throat is scratchy and you're starting to cough. You may be getting the flu!

If you have the flu, you'll have lots of company. Each year from November to April, all across the United States, as many as 60 million people come down with the flu. Although children get the flu most often, people in every age group — including teens — can catch it.

What Is Flu?
Flu is the common name for influenza (pronounced: in-floo-en-za), a virus that attacks the respiratory system.

Usually when you're sick with a virus, your body builds up a defense system by making antibodies against it, so you don't get that particular virus strain again. Unfortunately, flu viruses mutate (change) each year, so you aren't protected from getting the flu forever.

Some years the change in the flu virus is slight. So even if you get the flu, it's a mild case because the antibodies from having the flu before give you partial protection. But every 10 years or so the flu virus undergoes a major change and many people get severe cases. These large-scale outbreaks are called epidemics. If they spread worldwide, they're called pandemics.

How Is the Flu Spread?
The flu virus spreads through the air when a person who has the virus sneezes, coughs, or speaks. The flu can even be passed on if a person touches an object that someone with the virus sneezed or coughed on. People carrying the virus can be contagious 1 day before to 5 days after their symptoms appear. So they can pass it on before they even know they're sick.

Flu epidemics often start in schools and then move quickly through a community as students spread the virus to family members and people around them. In an average year, 5% to 20% of the people in an area can become sick.

How Do I Know if I Have the Flu?
Flu symptoms — like headache, fever, chills, muscle aches, and dry cough — appear anywhere from 1 to 4 days after a person has been exposed to the virus. Someone with the flu can have a temperature as high as 104° Fahrenheit (40° Celsius). People with the flu often feel achy and exhausted and may lose their appetite.

The fever and achiness usually disappear within 2 to 3 days, but they can be followed by a stuffy nose or a sore throat. The stuffy nose, sore throat, cough, and a feeling of tiredness may linger for a week or more.

The flu can sometimes cause vomiting, abdominal pain, and diarrhea in addition to the more common symptoms mentioned above. If you have only vomiting and diarrhea without the other flu symptoms, you probably have gastroenteritis (pronounced: gas-tro-en-tuh-rye-tuss), an illness that is caused by different viruses or bacteria.

Although you may feel miserable if you get the flu, it's unlikely to be serious. It's rare that healthy teens have complications like pneumonia or bronchitis from the flu. Older adults (over age 65), young kids (under age 5), and people with chronic medical conditions are more likely to become seriously ill with the flu.

What to Do When the Flu Bugs You
If you get the flu, the best way to take care of yourself is to rest in bed and drink lots of liquids like water and other noncaffeinated drinks. Stay home from school until you feel better and your temperature has returned to normal.

You probably don't need to contact your doctor unless you're not getting better, you develop complications (like trouble breathing) or you have a medical condition (for example, diabetes, heart problems, asthma, or other lung problems).

Most teens can take acetaminophen or ibuprofen to help with fever and aches. Avoid aspirin or any products that contain aspirin because they put kids and teens at greater risk of developing Reye syndrome, a very serious illness that sometimes follows infection with the flu virus and can lead to liver failure.

Antibiotics don't help people with the flu get better because they don't work on viruses. Sometimes doctors can prescribe an antiviral medicine to reduce the length of time someone is ill from the flu. These medicines are effective only against some types of flu virus and must be taken within 48 hours of the appearance of flu symptoms to be effective. Because of potential side effects, doctors usually only use this medicine for people who are very ill or who are at risk for serious complications, especially elderly patients.
Vaccine to the Rescue?

You can do some things during flu outbreaks to avoid getting sick. Wash your hands frequently, and avoid sharing cups, utensils, or towels with others. If you do catch the flu, use tissues whenever you sneeze or cough to avoid spreading the virus.

Your doctor may recommend that you get a flu vaccine to help you avoid getting the flu. Each year, scientists develop a vaccine made up of the flu viruses that are believed to be the ones most likely to infect people that year.

Flu vaccines are available as a shot or nasal mist. The shot contains killed flu viruses that won't cause you to get the flu, but will make your body create antibodies that fight off infection if you encounter the live flu virus. The nasal mist contains weakened live flu viruses. Because it contains live viruses, the mist is not for people with weakened immune systems or certain health conditions. It is only for healthy, non-pregnant, people between the ages of 2 and 49 years.

Most doctors recommend yearly flu vaccines for people over age 50, all kids and teens between 6 months and 18 years of age (especially those between 6 and 59 months), and people (including teens) with medical conditions such as cystic fibrosis, asthma, heart disease, or sickle cell disease.

You might also want to get a flu shot if you live with people who are at risk for health problems if they get the flu, such as the elderly and young children. Ask your doctor about getting a flu shot especially if you live in the same house as a grandparent or baby (or if you babysit or are in close contact with kids younger than 5).

Other people who may benefit from the vaccine are those who are infected with the HIV virus or have diabetes, kidney problems, or other chronic (long-term) medical conditions.

In times when the vaccine is in short supply, some people (such as elderly or sick people) need it more than others. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) sometimes recommends that only certain high-risk groups be vaccinated when flu shot supplies are limited. Talk with your doctor if you're interested in getting a flu shot.

If you get a flu shot, you may have a mild reaction, such as a fever, sore muscles, and tiredness, but most people don't have any reaction. With the nasal mist vaccine, some people develop a runny nose, headache, and low fever.

The flu vaccine is usually given a few weeks before flu season begins to give the body a chance to develop antibodies beforehand. But a person can still get a flu vaccine even after flu season starts. Anyone allergic to eggs should not get a flu vaccine because the viruses for the vaccine are grown in chicken eggs.

If you do get the flu this season, take care of yourself and call your doctor with any questions or concerns. When you're feeling bad it can help to remember that the flu only lasts a few days and you'll be back to your normal activities before too long.

Reviewed by: Larissa Hirsch, MD
Date reviewed: August 2008


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. sus kadilikado. ang tapad nako diri murag naay flu tanan. ayaw mog hatsing estorya og ubo ha? bantay! matagdan gani ko na. wa baya koy ikapalit og tambal. ehehehe mas maayo kay imong gibutangan diri ric. pag hatag pod og tips sa prevention og cure bay ha. :D

  3. medyo nalate imong post Lemon kay gi attack na ko.. anyways it is useful information especially in treating flu.

    get well soon :)

  4. HALA! nag uban ra baya ta gahapon! basig ma takdan ko! ayay!

    Mas mau pa mo palit nlng ko ani og John Lloyd nga tambal...katong "ingat" nga unsa ba..wala nmn ko na mao..hehe

    dili ta magkumpyansa aning sakita ni!

    -jacob ni..kapoy na mag sign in as different user wahaha

  5. very informative post about flu
    i must say prevention is still better than cure (^_^)

  6. wow.taasa oi. Bitaw lain jud magka FLU kay kapoy kau ang lawas. water therapy diay tirada ani maayo pud. nice kau ni na post kay daghan na nagka FLU diri sa ofis.Ayos ang information. dapat masugpo ang salarin. Pabuyag na ni si FLU da.

  7. @jigs
    delikado mo lng, lain kaau paminaw naay flu bay. pagbantay nlng dha jigs kng naay mang hatsing dapat sampungi daun imong ilong basig malanghap nimo ang virus hahaha.

    hehe mao lagi, gahapon pman ni nagsugod akoa. paita aning flu uy mgsakit akong kaso kasoan pati bagtak hohoii. sagdi lng at least kabalo nko unsaon pag treat ani ^_^

  8. @jacob alias craig
    haha craig na diay pangalan nimo karon ha. pagpray nlng cob nga dli ka matakdan ky ngsabay rba ta panihapon gabii basig ni spread na tong virus sa imong gikaon hahaha. ok lng na cob naa bitaw ko gi post na treatment dri if ever lng haha.

    @aice nice concepts
    yeah, tama ka aice prevention is much better than cure jud mao na nga panampong jud ug ilong basta naay mang hatsing dri sa ofis ky ang virus maglupad2 ra na dri sulod hehe ^_^

    lagi nald mkaluya bitaw sa kalawasan ning flu pero sagdi lng gahi man armas haha. perhuwisyo bitaw ning sakita ni ky mkagasto pa ta cge inom ug tambal hohoiii.


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