Influenza Infection

November 12, 2012

Influenza Infection

Influenza is an acute, viral infection of the respiratory tract. The condition commonly occurs in winter and may lead to serious complications, especially in the very old and the very young sections of the population.

Causes

Influenza symptoms are caused by the influenza virus. The virus mutates often and new strains develop each year. Thus, if you are exposed to the virus one year, you may develop antibodies against that particular strain. However, you may not be able to defend yourself against the new strains that would be prevalent in subsequent years. The infection is transmitted upon direct or indirect contact with respiratory droplets of an infected individual.

Symptoms

Influenza symptoms may include:

  • Fever over 100 degrees Fahrenheit

  • Aching muscles

  • Chills and sweats

  • Headache

  • Dry cough

  • Nasal congestion

Although, the individual may feel very sick, influenza does not cause any complications in healthy adults. Complications may, however, occur in individuals with reduced immunity such as young children, elderly, pregnant women, and those with chronic diseases.

Treatment

Most people can get rid of their influenza symptoms with proper bed rest and by drinking at least one full glass of water or fluid every hour. Over-the-counter antipyretic medications such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen may help lower fever and reduce body pains.

You should, however, consult a doctor if a fever of more than 102 degrees Fahrenheit persists of for more than three days, or if the cough brings out large amounts of mucus. You should also seek emergency medical help if you experience shortness of breath, or if your symptoms worsen drastically. Flu-like symptoms that occur 10 days to 3 weeks after a tick bite should be evaluated by a physician to rule out the possibility of Lyme’s disease.

Antiviral medications such as amantadine and rimantadine may be prescribed to reduce the length of influenza symptoms by one-third. Side effects of the drugs may include dizziness, insomnia and nausea. Oral medications such as Tamiflu and inhaled sprays such as Relenza can help treat influenza A and B. It is important to administer the flu medications within 48 hours of onset of symptoms to see maximum benefits.

Prevention

Influenza symptoms can be prevented by the intramuscular administration of the influenza vaccine. The vaccine offers protection against the most prevalent strains of that year. It is usually administered in fall, about 1 week to four months before the anticipated exposure. The vaccine, consisting of inactivated virus, can cause inflammation at the site of injection. Severe nervous system disorders may occur in rare cases. Individuals allergic to eggs should inform their doctors before taking the influenza vaccine. A new mist vaccine, FluMist, can be sprayed into the nose of patients between 5 and 65 years of age.

You may also lower the risk of influenza symptoms by reducing your exposure to cold weather and crowded areas.

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