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Seasonal flu, which is also known as influenza, is an acute viral infection that affects the respiratory system. The flu can cause serious illness or even death — especially among adults above the age of 60, kids below the age of 5, obese people, pregnant women, and people with underlying health conditions. According to the CDC, the flu has resulted in 12,000 to 52,000 deaths yearly between 2010 to 2020.
The flu is highly contagious and spreads pretty quickly within households and offices. Experts believe that the flu virus spreads through droplets from when an infected person talks, sneezes, or coughs. A person can become infected with the virus by touching objects or surfaces that the virus is on. The mucus membrane of the mouth, eyes, and nose is the main entry point of the flu virus. So if you touch these areas after touching a contaminated surface, you’re going to become sick. After coming in contact with the virus, it may take between 1 to 4 days before you start showing the symptoms.
Types of Seasonal Flu
There are four main types of flu viruses: types A, B, C, and D. Note that the type A and B viruses cause the seasonal flu epidemic that affects 8 to 10% of the population.
Type A: Type A can affect both humans and animals. It has two subtypes: Neuraminidase and Hemagglutinin.
Type B: Type B only affects humans. Its symptoms are less severe than type A.
Type C: Type C influenza can affect both humans and some animals. Its symptoms are mild and it results in few complications.
Type D: Type D only affects animals.
Symptoms of The Seasonal Flu
According to the CDC, a person with the flu may experience the following symptoms:
- Running nose
- Body aches
- High temperature
- Breathing difficulties
- Chest and abdominal pain
- Chills and sweats
Keep in mind that not everyone will experience all of these symptoms. Some individuals may have the flu without fever or dehydration.
Diagnosis of The Seasonal Flu
Several tests can help detect the influenza virus. Rapid influenza diagnostic tests (RIDTs) are one of the most popular tests available. It works by detecting nucleoprotein antigens. You can get the result of the test within 10 to 15 minutes. Bear in mind that the RIDTs aren’t very accurate, so there is a chance that you may have the flu even if the test result is negative.
Rapid molecular assays (RMA) are another test used to diagnose the flu. It works by detecting the genetic material of the virus. The result of this test is available within 15 to 20 minutes.
Besides RIDTs and RMA, other accurate tests can help detect the flu too. They include a reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction, immunofluorescence assays, and viral cultures.
How to Treat The Seasonal Flu
Different antiviral drugs can address the flu. These medications are available by prescription only, so visit your health care provider to get a prescription.
Antiviral medications are effective and can reduce the symptoms of the flu. What’s more, it can help reduce the length of the flu by a few days.
While these medications can help address the illness, it is worth noting that they have side effects. You should consult your doctor to learn about the risks before using them.
To get the most out of antiviral medication, you should take it as soon as you start experiencing symptoms.
How to Manage The Seasonal Flu
Even if you don’t take an antiviral medication, the flu will go away on its own after a week. Below are a few things you can do to ease the symptoms during this period:
- Rest: Avoid strenuous activities, relax, and try to get enough sleep each night.
- Stay Hydrated: Drink enough water, soup, and healthy beverages.
- Saltwater: Gargling with salt water can help ease nasal congestion and a sore throat.
- OTC Medications: These can help reduce fever and headaches.
- Humidifier: Flu viruses thrive in a dry environment. Making your home more humid will help reduce nasal congestion. This will make it easier for you to breathe.
- What is the most effective way to prevent the flu? Getting the flu vaccine is the best way to prevent the flu. The vaccine will help to reduce the severity of the symptoms. What’s more, it mitigates the risk of death and hospitalization.
- What should I avoid during flu season? You should wash your hands frequently and disinfect touched surfaces in your home.
Healthier Me Today is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment, always consult with your healthcare professional. Stay healthy!