Most of us know influenza as ‘flu’ (not to be confused with ‘stomach flu,’ which is a bout of diarrhea and vomiting). It is an annual occurrence for many people and you’re much more likely to find yourself with influenza in the winter months. For most people it will be something we are able to shrug off fairly easily but there can be complications. Which is why it’s important to know the signs of influenza and what to do if you struggle to get well.
What is influenza?
It will feel initially like a common cold with symptoms such as sneezing and a runny nose. However, it then tends to develop (quite suddenly) into something that will make you feel much more unwell. Full blown flu comes with a fever and a headache, as well as a whole range of other symptoms including a dry cough and shortness of breath, feeling tired and weak, eye pain and a sore throat. Children may also suffer from vomiting and diarrhea when they have the flu.
How is influenza treated?
For most people there is no treatment and it’s simply a case of allowing your body to do the work of fighting off the flu. Plenty of rest, staying hydrated and treating specific symptoms, such as headaches with over the counter pain medication, can all be helpful. Flu can feel pretty horrible but for most people there will be signs of recovery within a few days. It’s a good idea to stay away from other people if you have influenza, as it is easily spread.
When is influenza a problem?
Some people may be especially vulnerable to complications with flu, for example children under the age of 2, adults who are over the age of 65 and anyone who is pregnant. People with a BMI of 40 or higher also tend to be at risk of developing complications from getting sick with the flu. It can also be devastating for anyone who has a compromised immune system or a chronic illness such as heart disease or kidney disease. Antiviral medication can be useful for anyone who falls into any of these categories, as it can shorten the duration of the sickness.
What are the emergency symptoms of influenza?
Although flu isn’t a pleasant experience it should not be an emergency for most people. However, if you notice any of the following then it might be time to get some medical help:
- Chest pain
- Feeling like you can’t breathe
- Noticing that any existing medical conditions get worse
- Feeling severe muscle pain or weakness
There are also a number of complications that children can experience with influenza, including pale gray or blue coloured skin, difficulty breathing and severe muscle pain.
Although no one wants to get the flu in winter, for most of us it will be an experience that we live through. However, it’s important to make sure that you know the symptoms of influenza, as well as the signs that you might need to get medical help.
Harley Street is the UK's foremost private medical centre which is dedicated to providing high-quality care for your ear, nose, throat, head & neck, and balance-related disorders. Find out more information on how Harley Street ENT can help you here.