Flu Treatment

Worried about catching the flu? Want to learn some ways to prevent it? Then read on to learn more about influenza — what it is, how it’s spread, and who’s at greatest risk for getting it. Knowledge is power when it comes to preventing flu!

What is the flu?

Influenza, commonly known as the “flu,” is an extremely contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza A or B viruses. Flu appears most frequently in winter and early spring. The flu virus attacks the body by spreading through the upper and/or lower respiratory tract.

What’s the difference between a cold and flu?

The common cold and flu are both contagious viral infections of the respiratory tract. Although the symptoms can be similar, flu is much worse. A cold may drag you down a bit, but the flu can make you shudder at the very thought of getting out of bed.

Need help deciding which treatments are effective for the flu? Wonder how you can manage the flu? There are treatments that can help relieve common flu symptoms such as fever, aches, and cough, and may shorten the time you have flu symptoms. Keep in mind that you should not give over-the-counter cough and cold medicines to children under age 4.

 

Diagnosis

Your doctor will conduct a physical exam, look for signs and symptoms of influenza, and possibly order a test that detects influenza viruses.

The most commonly used test is called a rapid influenza diagnostics test, which looks for substances (antigens) on a swab sample from the back of the nose or throat. These tests can provide results in 30 minutes or less. However, results vary greatly and are not always accurate. Your doctor may diagnose you with influenza based on symptoms, despite having a negative test result.

More-sensitive flu tests are available in some specialized hospitals and labs.

 

If you get the flu, antiviral drugs may be a treatment option.

Check with your doctor promptly if you are at high risk of serious flu complications and you get flu symptoms. People at high risk of flu complications include young children, adults 65 years of age and older, pregnant women, and people with certain medical conditions such as asthma, diabetes and heart disease.

When used for treatment, antiviral drugs can lessen symptoms and shorten the time you are sick by 1 or 2 days. They also can prevent serious flu complications, like pneumonia. For people at high risk of serious flu complications, treatment with antiviral drugs can mean the difference between milder or more serious illness possibly resulting in a hospital stay.

Congestion, sore throat, and sneezing are common with colds. Both cold and flu may bring coughing, headache, and chest discomfort. With the flu, though, you are likely to run a high fever for several days and have body aches, fatigue, and weakness. Symptoms of the flu also tend to come on abruptly. Usually, complications from colds are relatively minor, but a case of flu can lead to a life-threatening illness such as pneumonia.

More than 100 types of cold viruses are known, and new strains of flu evolve every few years. Since both diseases are viral, antibiotics cannot conquer cold or flu. Remember: Antibiotics only treat bacterial infections.

Treatment

Usually, you’ll need nothing more than bed rest and plenty of fluids to treat the flu. But in some cases, your doctor may prescribe an antiviral medication, such as oseltamivir (Tamiflu) or zanamivir (Relenza). If taken soon after you notice symptoms, these drugs may shorten your illness by a day or so and help prevent serious complications.

Oseltamivir is an oral medication. Zanamivir is inhaled through a device similar to an asthma inhaler and shouldn’t be used by anyone with respiratory problems, such as asthma and lung disease.

Antiviral medication side effects may include nausea and vomiting. These side effects may be lessened if the drug is taken with food. Oseltamivir has also been associated with delirium and self-harm behaviors in teenagers.

Some researchers recommend further study on both of these drugs because of uncertainty about their effects beyond a slight reduction in the time of illness. Some studies have suggested that these medications can also help reduce the severity of complications. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention still recommends their use for some people.

An additional concern is that some strains of influenza have become resistant to oseltamivir, amantadine and rimantadine (Flumadine), which are older antiviral drugs.

If you get sick:
1. Take Antivirals Drugs, if prescribed by a doctor
2. Take everyday precautions to protect others while sick

While sick, limit contact with others as much as possible to keep from infecting them.

Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
Wash your hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.
Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that may be contaminated with germs like the flu.

3. Stay home until you are better

If you are sick with flu-like illness, CDC recommends that you stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone except to get medical care or for other necessities. Your fever should be gone without the use of fever-reducing medicine.