What is the Flu?
Influenza, commonly known as the flu, is an extremely contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses. It is a virus that may cause a serious illness among those who catch it. The flu appears most frequently in winter and early spring. The flu virus enters the body through the respiratory tract.
Symptoms of the Flu
The flu is different than a cold in that flu symptoms are usually much more intense and can come on extremely rapidly. Signs to watch out for include:
- Muscle aches (extreme at times)
- Body chills
- Sore throat
- Runny nose
How is the Flu Diagnosed?
Your doctor may diagnose you with the flu based on your symptoms and their clinical judgment, or they may choose to use an influenza diagnostic test. Testing can help the doctor decide which course of treatment to prescribe. During an outbreak of respiratory illness, testing for flu can help determine if flu viruses are the cause of the outbreak.
Treating the Flu
Flu treatment depends on many factors. Most importantly, early diagnosis with a flu test within 48 hours of the onset of symptoms will allow the doctor to prescribe antiviral medications which will help shorten the length of time of your illness. Presenting after the initial 48 hours, patients with the flu will still need treatment to help ameliorate the effects of the flu by prescribing treatments like antipyretics to reduce your fever and analgesics to relieve any pain or aches in addition to lots of fluid and bed rest.
Flu Shot Vaccinations
The best way to avoid the flu is to come to the Medical Center of Marin to receive your flu vaccination. The vaccinations usually start in September (or as soon as the vaccine is on hand) and continue throughout the flu season, into January, and beyond. This is because the timing and duration of influenza seasons are never the same. Flu outbreaks usually peak at around January, but they can happen as early as October. The earlier the vaccination, the more time your body has to build up a defense against the virus.