Every so often we interact with weather elements that carry with them aetiological factors for cold and flu. Dust, cold weather, pollen may lead one to have one of those nasty days that could extend to weeks of headaches, coughs, sneezes depending on the incubation period of the ailment. Cold and flu reduce our productivity and our interaction, and since it is airborne, we end up passing it on to our loved ones. However, we can prevent colds and flu but first of all, what do we need to know about these?
Every year many people in our population suffer from Flu. This happens more often than not, the reason being the agent is airborne and easily contagious. Flu can affect a single person more than once in a year. It is a respiratory infection that is caused by influenza (flu) virus.
Signs and symptoms
Anyone is prone to be infected by the influenza virus which is known to cause mild to severe symptoms as opposed to the common cold whose symptoms may be the same but lesser. The symptoms can include fever and aches, runny nose, sneezing and/or coughing, as well as a sore throat all of which lead to a headache and fatigue.
Typically, the symptoms of Flu improve in about a week since the incubation period of the virus takes about the same time. Some patients can recover fully from flu without many complications but flu has proven dangerous to people who have a weakened immune system. Often times in weakened immune systems, flu paves way for other complications like pneumonia. Older adults may experience some of these complications because of their weakened immunity. Other people with a weakened immunity are those with chronic diseases and those living with HIV/AIDS.
When infected with the virus, it almost always causes a rise in the body temperature beyond the optimum ranging from 38 degrees Celsius to 40 degrees Celsius. Children may record higher temperatures than adults. The rise in temperature is what is known as fever. Sometimes it is confusing to have a fever because your body may have high temperatures but you have chills, narrow sweat and cold. Any suspicion that a child has flu should be reported to a doctor immediately. Fevers do not last more than a week.
Some patients find it difficult to perform simple daily tasks because of pain in their muscular organs as a result of the flu. These pains are most common in the neck, the limbs and the back.
A painful, dry and persistent cough is associated with the flu virus that can actually lead to irregular breathing patterns including shortness of breath and/or chest discomfiture. The coughs can go for about 2 weeks.
Headaches and fatigue
The body aches, fever and coughs automatically translate to headaches and general body fatigue. Sometimes these headaches become severe which may be contributed to by eye symptoms like sensitivity to light and sound. What follows thereafter are feelings of tiredness and generally unwell.
How is the flu different from a cold?
No one is to blame for the mixup between a cold and the flu. Both seem similar at first. They share a common tenet being respiratory illnesses that cause similar symptoms.
A major difference is how they are caused and the severity of the symptoms. Different viruses cause these conditions and the symptoms help differentiate between the two. Patients with either illness will both experience a runny and stuffy nose, sneezing, body aches and general fatigue. The only difference is that flu symptoms are more severe in comparison to the cold symptoms.
The severity of flu symptoms often times lead to other health complications uncommon with colds like sinus, ear infections, pneumonia and sepsis. Only a doctor can differentiate between a cold and the flu by running tests based on a patients symptoms.
For a cold, and this can only be confirmed by a doctor, a patient will only need to manage the symptoms until the virus runs its incubation course. Management may include taking lots of water to stay hydrated while getting plenty of rest. cold medications over the counter can also be used in management.
For the flu, it is important to take the prescribed medicine early in the influenza virus cycle to reduce the severity of the illness and significantly cut down on the downtime. It will also run its course as the patient takes enough time to rest and keeps hydrated.
Most patients will recover from flu-like symptoms in about a week but take a few more days to regain the normal self. Flu is contagious, right from the pre-symptom stage and up to one week after symptoms appear.
A patient should always wash their hands to prevent spreading the nasty virus to surfaces where other people can pick it. It is also recommended that you cover your nose and mouth with tissues while coughing and sneezing to prevent further spreading.
For people at high risk for associated complications contact your doctor as soon as the flu-like symptoms appear. The high-risk
populations include people with weakened immune systems, pregnant women, people over the age of 65 years and children under 5 years.