Influenza or the flu is a virus of the respiratory tract. It is extremely common and resolves on its own without any complication in most of the populations. It can, however, result in serious complications in particular cases.
The flu virus is spread through direct contact or through air droplets that are spread via sneezing, talking or coughing. Children, aged people and those with compromised immune systems are, particularly at risk.
There is a little difference between the common cold and influenza. Flu, however, is more severe than a cold and occurs much more suddenly. Common signs and symptoms of the flu are:
- Body pain and muscle ache
- Chills and sweating
- Dry cough
- Sore throat
- Nasal congestion (blocked nose)
Flu can lead to severe complications such as pneumonia, bronchitis, heart problems, ear infections, and asthma flare-ups, especially in children under 5 years of age, and adults over 65. Immuno-compromised, bed bound, obese, and people with other chronic illnesses such as heart, kidney, or lung diseases need to evaluate for flu complications.
Flu is usually diagnosed upon clinical examination of the signs and symptoms. Specialized diagnostic tests for flu antigens can be used depending on the requirement.
Annual flu vaccination is the most preferred method of prevention against influenza. Bed rest and fluids are usually all that is recommended for a bout of flu; in some cases, anti-viral medication such as oseltamivir or zanamivir may be used.