As the beautiful fall foliage fades, winter brings the cold and snow (for some!), forcing the majority of people to spend more time indoors in close proximity. It’s the perfect breeding ground to spread the viruses that cause the cold and flu. These viruses are extremely contagious, capable of being contracted through coughing, sneezing, and touching infected surfaces. While both are viral infections of the respiratory system, the flu is more severe. It is imperative to understand the symptoms and treatment of the flu. A small group of people are considered high-risk, but the majority of people can safely treat their symptoms and recover from influenza at home within approximately two weeks—without the need to visit a doctor.
Symptoms of the Flu
Some key differences in the flu or a cold is the severity in the symptoms and how quickly it develops. Influenza tends to seemingly come out of nowhere. The list below is comprised of classic flu symptoms. However, please note that not everyone will experience all of these symptoms. For example, not everyone will have a runny nose and cough when stricken with the flu, but will certainly have a combination of the following:
Runny or Stuffy Nose
Vomiting or Diarrhea
Treatment of the Flu
If you wake up feeling like a truck hit you, exhibiting a combination of the symptoms listed above, you most likely have caught the dreaded bug. The method of treatment varies depending upon the symptoms exhibited by the individual. Since the flu cannot be cured by medicine, the next best course of action is to alleviate your symptoms. Many people who catch the flu experience mild to moderate symptoms, negating the need to visit an emergency room. Although, “mild” is relative to the individual’s tolerance level.
If you should find yourself sick with the flu, take the following steps as needed.
Stay home and isolate yourself from other members of your household to limit exposure. It can be easily transmitted from one person to another.
Drink plenty of clear fluids, like water, soup, and juice, to stay hydrated in order to avoid dehydration.
Resting is the most effective way to recuperate, enabling your immune system the opportunity to fight off the virus. This means no exercising, cleaning, or exerting yourself in any manner.
Consider utilizing home remedies or over-the-counter medicines to treat congestion, fever, joint pain, and headache, but realize that these do not make the flu go away. They will help you feel more comfortable by relieving your symptoms.
Cough and sneeze into tissues. Throw them into the trash and wash your hands promptly.
If you do not have anyone to care for you, consider hiring someone.
Contact your personal physician for direction on how to proceed in your treatment of the flu.
Do not drink alcohol or smoke.
In some instances, if caught early, your doctor may prescribe an antiviral medication, such as Tamiflu (oseltamivir) or Relenza (zanamivir) that may shorten your illness, lessen your symptoms, and prevent severe complications. However, these drugs are prescription-only. Not only that, you may experience side effects associated with taking antiviral drugs. Check with your doctor or the CDC for more information regarding these drugs.
If you undertake the responsibility of caring for someone sick with the flu, take the subsequent precautions to prevent catching it.
Frequently and thoroughly wash your hands after touching the individual, and any linens or laundry.
Make a conscious effort to keep your hands away from your face.
Spend as little time as possible with the person who is sick.
It is highly recommended to wear a face mask and disposable gloves—if possible.
Do everything you can to help them feel comfortable.
Encourage the person to drink plenty of fluids to keep them hydrated.
Use a humidifier or vaporizer to make breathing easier.
Seek medical attention from a health care provider if they begin to exhibit the following symptoms:
Inability to drink liquids
Show signs of dehydration—dizziness or not urinating
If they develop wheezing or difficulty breathing
Retains a fever of more than 100 degrees Fahrenheit for more than three days
Coughs up blood
Begins to experience pain or pressure in the chest while breathing
Has blue or purplish-colored skin
Seems confused, has trouble balancing while sitting or walking
Begins to feel better then becomes sick again
As a result of the flu, there are some complications that may form. A number of these may be life-threatening and can cause death. The flu can cause severe complications in individuals falling under the high-risk group, including the young, elderly, pregnant, and individuals with medical conditions that have compromised their immune systems. Some of these complications include the following:
Pneumonia, which is a serious infection of the lungs and often occurs in those with weakened immune systems resulting from disease or medication
Asthma attacks among people with asthma
Worsening of chronic congestive heart failure
Myositis, muscle inflammation
Contact your physician with any of your concerns or questions. If you are experiencing a medical emergency, call 911 or visit the emergency room to seek immediate medical attention.
Since 2009, she has been a freelance content marketing specialist, contributing to several online publications and crafting content for clients. She has covered a plethora of topics, such as traveling, animals, health-related issues, fitness—pretty much anything under the sun. She holds a Bachelor's in Psychology, but also has taken many business-related and early education courses.
She loves learning and sometimes has a hard time breaking away from research. It's almost akin to going down a rabbit hole that branches into a thousand tunnels that need to be searched lest there be a rare treasure left undiscovered.
Traveling, photography, yoga, running, reading, and eating are some of her guilty pleasures, as are people-watching, hiking in the mountains, and watching marathons of her favorite shows.