What is Influenza?:
- Influenza is a viral infection that attacks your respiratory system — your nose, throat and lungs and is commonly called the flu.
Why Should You Care:
- The flu has resulted in 9.3 million to 49 million illnesses each year in the United States since 2010.
- Each year, on average, five to 20 percent of the United States population gets the flu.
- It is estimated that the flu results in 31.4 million outpatient visits and more than 200,000 hospitalizations each year.
- During the severe 2017-2018 flu season, one of the longest in recent years, estimates indicate that more than 900,000 people were hospitalized and more than 80,000 people died from flu.
- Last season took the greatest toll on adults age 65 years and older. About 58 percent of the estimated hospitalizations occurred in that age group.
Initially, the flu may seem like a common cold with a runny nose, sneezing and sore throat. But colds usually develop slowly, whereas the flu tends to come on suddenly.
Common signs and symptoms of the flu include:
- Fever over 100.4 F (38 C)
- Chills and sweats
- Dry, persistent cough
- Fatigue and weakness
- Nasal congestion
- Sore throat
Flu viruses travel through the air in droplets when someone with the infection coughs, sneezes or talks.
Factors that may increase your risk of developing influenza or its complications include:
- Age: Young children and older adults are mostly affected.
- Living or working conditions: People who live or work in facilities with many other residents, such as nursing homes or military barracks.
- Weakened immune system: Cancer treatments, anti-rejection drugs, corticosteroids and HIV/AIDS can weaken your immune system.
- Chronic illnesses: Chronic conditions, such as asthma, diabetes or heart problems.
- Pregnancy: Pregnant women are more likely to develop influenza complications, particularly in the second and third trimesters. Women who are up to two weeks postpartum.
- Obesity: People with a BMI of 40.
If you're young and healthy, seasonal influenza usually isn't serious. Although you may feel miserable while you have it, the flu usually goes away in a week or two with no lasting effects. But high-risk children and adults may develop complications such as:
- Asthma flare-ups
- Heart problems
- Ear infections
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.
- Drink plenty of liquids
- Consider pain relievers: Use an over-the-counter pain reliever, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol, others) or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others), to combat the achiness associated with influenza.
* CIS does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. The content is for informational purposes only.