What is the Flu?
The flu (influenza) is a contagious viral disease that usually affects the respiratory tract.
The usual symptoms are:
- Severe headache.
- Muscle aches and fever of 100°F to 103°F.
- Loss of appetite, nausea, diarrhea or constipation.
- Respiratory symptoms such as runny nose, dry cough, sneezing and sore throat.
Uncomplicated flu usually lasts about 7-10 days, but may last longer. If complications occur, bacterial pneumonia is the most common. The sinuses, bronchi or the inner ear can also become infected.
Who Gets It?
Anyone can get the flu, especially when it is widespread in the community, but some people are more susceptible.
These include people with:
- Chronic lung disease, such as asthma, emphysema, chronic bronchitis or tuberculosis.
- Diabetes or other chronic metabolic disorder.
- High exposure to flu because of occupation.
- Chronic kidney disease.
- Heart disease.
- HIV disease.
How to Take Care of Yourself
Because the flu is caused by a virus, there is “no magic cure.” Antibiotics will not help a viral infection. Treatment is aimed, therefore, at reducing the discomfort of the symptoms and preventing complications from developing.
- Take 2 aspirin substitutes as directed to help reduce the fever, relieve the muscle aches and headaches. (Taking aspirin for the flu or chicken pox has been associated with Reye’s Syndrome, a potentially fatal disease.
- Rest is necessary to help prevent complications and control the spread of the disease. Get the sleep and rest you need.
- Drink plenty of liquids (10-12 glasses daily, not alcohol) to replace fluid loss due to the fever and diarrhea.
- Eat a light diet, such as juices, toast and other relatively bland food.
- Gargle with 1/2 tsp. of salt in a glass of warm water, or suck on ice chips or lozenges to relieve your sore throat.
- Stop smoking, if you haven’t already done so.
- Increase the humidity in your room by using a cool vaporizer or steam humidifier.
- When you recover, resume normal activities gradually to avoid a relapse.
When Should You Seek Medical Attention?
Seek medical advice if you have:
- Fever over 101°F that lasts more than 48 hours.
- Sore throat that is very severe or has lasted over 3 days.
- Tonsils enlarged or with white spots on them.
- Swollen glands.
- Chest pains, are short of breath, or have a wheezing cough.
- Cough lasting a week longer than the other flu symptoms.
- Greenish, yellowish, or bloody sputum being coughed up.
- Severe headache or facial pain which is not relieved by an aspirin substitute.
- Vomiting or diarrhea.
- History of rheumatic fever, asthma, chronic bronchitis, emphysema or any other chronic illness and think you are getting the flu.
To Help Prevent The Flu:
- Maintain and upgrade your health, nutrition and personal hygiene.
- Avoid close contact with those who have become infected with influenza virus or those with a known recent exposure.
- Avoid crowded and poorly ventilated quarters during the “flu season.”
If You Get it – Don’t Spread It
- Cover your coughs and sneezes with disposable tissues.
- Wash your hands frequently.
- Keep your drinking glasses and towels separate from other people’s.
All persons six months of age and older should receive an annual Flu Vaccine.
Avoid drinking alcohol while taking medications. Taking two central nervous system depressants such as antihistamines and alcohol may have very serious side effects.