Influenza: symptoms and treatment
Influenza is an acute infection of the respiratory tract caused by the influenza virus. Included in the group of acute respiratory viral infections (ARVI). Periodically spreads in the form of epidemics and pandemics.
For most people, flu symptoms go away within a week without medical attention. But the flu can lead to serious illness and death, especially in people at risk. According to WHO estimates, annual influenza epidemics cause 3-5 million cases of severe illness and 390-650 thousand deaths. In Russia alone, doctors register about 27 million sick people every year. The reconvalescence period is 7–15 days.
ICD-10: J10, J11
- Influenza Virus Types
- How is the flu spread?
- How to tell the flu from colds and SARS?
- Complications of influenza
- Flu treatment
- How does the flu shot work?
- Side effects
- Flu treatment with folk remedies
- Flu treatment recommendations
- Which doctor should i go to for the flu?
Influenza Virus Types
Type A (has subtypes A1, A2). Almost all known epidemics and pandemics of influenza are caused by the type A influenza virus. It has a lot of serotypes that can infect humans and animals. Various subtypes cause avian and swine flu. The DNA of the virus is capable of rapidly changing, so every season there are strains of influenza that differ from the previously known ones..
- Type B. Influenza B viruses do not spread to epidemic size. They are more easily tolerated by patients and practically do not cause complications..
- Type C. Cases of influenza type C are recorded quite rarely, as they have a mild clinical picture or are asymptomatic.
How is the flu spread?
The disease develops as a result of the entry into the body of the virus A, C or B - this is where the reasons for infection with influenza lie. The virus spreads from the source of the disease to the susceptible organism.
The incubation period ranges from 4-12 hours to 3 days.
The patient releases the maximum amount of the virus in the first 6 days after infection. The higher the concentration of the virus in the secreted secretion, the stronger the catarrhal phenomena (cough, runny nose, sneezing), the higher the risk of infection.
There are two ways of transmission of the influenza virus:
Airborne. The virus is released along with saliva and phlegm when an infected person sneezes, coughs, or simply participates in a conversation. In the form of a fine aerosol, the virus spreads in the surrounding air and is inhaled by healthy people.
Entrance gates can serve not only the mouth or nose, but also the eyes of a person. The more people there are, the higher the risk of infection. This is especially true for close-knit teams, for example, for kindergarten groups, for classrooms, for offices, etc.
- Contact-household transmission route. One should not exclude the possibility that the virus can be transmitted by contact and household contact. That is, if the sputum, which contains the virus, gets on hygiene products, on cutlery, on bed linen, and a healthy person uses these things, he will be infected.
Handshake as a cause of infection
In the course of a survey in which 1000 British residents took part, it was found that 57% of them would not kiss a person who has the flu or other acute respiratory viral infections. In this case, 86% of people would replace a kiss with a handshake.
At the same time, the myth that the flu is transmitted through a kiss with a sick person has been refuted by scientists from Britain. The risk of infection increases severalfold if you exchange handshakes rather than kissing.
Specialists working at the University of Cardiff explain this fact by the fact that the virus is transmitted through mucus, and not through saliva. That is, an infected person touches the nose, eyes, lips and mucus sticks to his hands. During a handshake, this mucus falls on the hands of a healthy person, and then in the same way is carried onto healthy mucous membranes.
The results of this survey once again became evidence that the population without a medical education has little awareness of the methods of transmission of the influenza virus and SARS. Therefore, experts once again remind that close contact with the source of infection is important in terms of the spread of the virus. In this regard, coughing, sneezing and shaking hands are of particular importance.
How to tell the flu from colds and SARS?
Symptoms can be of varying intensity, depending on the type of influenza virus, the functioning of the human immune system, but in general, the clinical picture is determined by general signs.
Deterioration of health
> 37.5 ° C
> 38 ° C
39-40 ° C
Yes, expressed by increased fatigue
Yes, severe chills, headache, and pain on eye movement, photophobia, body aches
Runny nose and nasal congestion
Appears at the first hour
Arises in the first days
May appear as a complication, not earlier
The main difference at the very beginning is redness of the eyes and lacrimation. It is this symptom that indicates the flu. And sneezing is typical for ARVI.
Read more: How to tell the flu from SARS and colds?
Common flu symptoms include:
- Painful sensations in the muscles, aches. Muscle stiffness, aching pains in them arise as the incubation period ends and gradually increase. The culprit of muscle pain is the viral component hemagglutinin, which leads to impaired blood circulation through the vessels. As a result, the metabolism is disrupted, the lack of oxygen is growing, natural waste products stagnate inside the muscles, causing pain and aches.
- Fever. A jump in body temperature is one of the first symptoms that a flu virus has entered the body. An increase in body temperature indicates that the body is fighting infection.
- The chills that occur with the flu are the body's defenses to reduce heat loss.
- Loss of appetite. Appetite decreases due to the fact that the activity of the food center is inhibited in the brain. This is a feature of the human body inherent in nature, which is explained by the fact that all its forces should be aimed at fighting infection.
- The appearance of headaches.
- An increase in general weakness.
Complications of influenza
Keep in mind that flu symptoms only seem harmless at first, but they have serious complications if left untreated. You definitely need to see a doctor!
Influenza can cause serious complications and consequences (up to death):
- Otitis media (ear inflammation).
- Sinusitis (inflammation of the paranasal sinuses).
- Meningitis (inflammation of the meninges).
- Tracheitis (inflammation of the trachea).
- Pneumonia, bronchitis (inflammation of the lungs, bronchi).
- Myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle).
- Glomerulonephritis (inflammation of the kidneys).
If the patient has at least 1 of the following symptoms, call a doctor immediately:
- Hallucinations, impaired consciousness;
- Temperature above 40 ° C;
- Shortness of breath, shortness of breath;
- Pain in the back of the head that cannot be relieved by medication;
- Rash on the skin.
The following medications are used to relieve flu symptoms:
Antiviral agents. Take antiviral medications with proven effectiveness. These include Tamiflu, Relenza, Amantadine and Remantadin. The choice of a specific drug and the calculation of the dosage is carried out by a specialist.
On the basis of paracetamol, the preparations Panadol and Efferalgan (effervescent tablets) have been developed, you can see the full list here.
Nimesulide preparations not only reduce fever, but also relieve muscle pain and headache.
- If the temperature rises above 38.5, you should take an antipyretic agent, for example, Paracetamol, Ibuprofen, Aspirin, etc. (Drugs that quickly reduce the temperature). Aspirin is contraindicated in children due to the risk of developing Reye's syndrome!
- For sore throat. The throat can be rinsed and treated with ready-made medicinal compounds: Chlorfillipt, Lugol's solution, Miramistin, Iodinol, etc. You can also prepare a solution yourself based on soda, salt and iodine. To do this, for one glass of water, you will need to take a teaspoon of soda and salt and add no more than 5 drops of iodine to the solution. (list of throat sprays)
Cough medicines. To relieve coughing, you need to reduce the viscosity of the sputum so that it is easy to cough up. Expectorants can be used to dilute sputum, for example, Lazolvan, ACC, Mukaltin, Bronholitin, Bromhexin, Ambroxol, Acetylcysteine, etc. (review of cough drops)
- To facilitate nasal breathing, vasoconstrictor drops are used, such as Tizin, Naphtizin, Naphosalin, Xilen, Galazolin, Sanorin, Otrivin, Rinofluimucil, etc.
- With swelling of the mucous membrane. To relieve swelling with influenza, antihistamines are prescribed, for example, Diazolin, Zirtek, Tavegil, etc.
Due to increased sweating and intoxication with the flu, there is a risk of becoming dehydrated. You should definitely drink warm drinks constantly.
Antibiotics for influenza
Viral infections such as influenza are not treated with antibiotics. However, a doctor can prescribe them for you in the presence of a complicated infection and the addition of bacterial flora (for example, the appearance of a sore throat, which must be treated with antibiotics). The selection is carried out in each case individually, by the attending physician. Usually Azithromycin, Ceftriaxone, or Cefazolin are given.
More: should you drink antibiotics for flu and colds?
Flu vaccine - how does it work?
An effective measure against influenza is vaccination, which reduces the number of side effects from infection, speeds up recovery, and reduces deaths from influenza. If a person comes across a virus from which he was vaccinated, then in most cases the disease does not occur, and if infection does occur, then the infection proceeds much easier.
How does the flu shot work?
In order to start producing a vaccine, scientists are analyzing the likelihood of spreading strains of the influenza virus. Those that will prevail in the future period of general morbidity are highlighted. Based on these data, appropriate vaccines are produced and distributed to hospitals.
After the introduction of the vaccine into the bloodstream, active synthesis of specific antibodies against these types of virus begins. Antibodies form immunity from the influence of certain strains on the body. When interacting with the source of this virus - an infected person - the probability of infection is extremely low.
Conducting a specific vaccination can reduce the risk of disease from 40% to -60%. A vaccinated person can become infected through contact with another type of flu. However, the disease will be easier, the symptoms will be less pronounced, since the antibodies of the vaccine will still perform their immune action.
The most suitable time for a flu shot is the end of October, the maximum is the first week of November. By the beginning of the disease season, which occurs at the end of autumn, the body has time to develop a sufficient amount of antibodies. The development of antibodies against influenza takes about two weeks from the date of vaccination.
Despite the great educational work of doctors, every year a large number of people refuse to receive a flu shot, explaining this by fear of getting sick. Everyone needs to remember that influenza vaccine cannot cause influenza infection. A person cannot get sick precisely because he has been vaccinated. The flu shot contains a dead virus. These forms of strains are not strong enough to cause disease. However, it should be noted that minor side effects may occur after influenza vaccination. They are characterized by weak expression and short duration. The negative symptoms after vaccination are much easier than the clinical picture during the flu.
Most often, side effects are expressed as:
- Painful sensations at the injection site.
- An increase in body temperature to 37.1 - 38 degrees in the first days after vaccination.
- Slight muscle weakness.
Unpleasant symptoms are extremely rare and last no more than two days. The vast majority of vaccinated people do not notice side effects.
Flu treatment with folk remedies
Traditional medicine uses natural remedies to relieve symptoms and fight the virus:
Garlic. Studies show that people who took garlic were 70% less likely to get sick than those who received a placebo. 
In addition, the flu patients who consumed garlic recovered on average 3-4 days faster than others.
- Honey. It is known that honey has a pronounced antibacterial property. Medical observations indicate the immunostimulating effects of honey. Considering all the listed qualities, honey is recommended for throat diseases caused by bacteria. To do this, 1/2 teaspoon of honey is dissolved in a glass of warm milk, tea or water. The honey drink soothes an irritated throat, replenishes fluid loss, and has an antibacterial effect.
- Ginger. It is useful for its antimicrobial, antioxidant and anticancer properties.
Echinacea It helps well at the beginning of the disease, at the earliest symptoms. Echinacea should be taken at the first sign of flu. It will help prevent the development of complications, will help to significantly reduce the duration of the disease. 
Yogurt. Probiotics are useful for adults, children, debilitated patients. They stimulate the protective functions of the body, shorten the period of illness, and reduce the intake of antibiotics. Children who were given probiotic yogurt recovered faster and had 55% less clinical flu symptoms. 
Vitamin C. Taking vitamin C in combination with zinc helps to alleviate unpleasant symptoms, shortens the period of infection. Vitamin C and zinc relieve colds, pneumonia, malaria, and diarrhea. 
The record holder for vitamin C content is:
- Rosehip dry (1200 mg / 100 g)
- Red pepper (250 mg / 100 g)
- Black currant (200 mg / 100 g)
- Apples (165 mg / 100 g)
Read More: 15 Foods To Boost Your Cold & Flu Recovery
Flu treatment recommendations
To alleviate the patient's condition, doctors advise during treatment to adhere to the following recommendations:
Which doctor should i go to for the flu?
Breakthrough in the treatment of influenza, in the program "Life is great!"
Author of the article: Alekseeva Maria Yurievna | Therapist
Education: From 2010 to 2016 Practitioner of the therapeutic hospital of the central medical-sanitary unit No. 21, city of elektrostal. Since 2016 she has been working in the diagnostic center No. 3.