Understanding Seasonal Flu: What You Need to Know?

-Dr. Sanoop Kumar Sherin Sabu M.D. (Int Med), FCPM, Institutor And Specialist In Lifestyle Disease Screening

Understanding Seasonal Flu: What You Need to Know?

Have you ever woken up feeling under the weather with a scratchy throat and a headache that just won’t quit? Chances are, you’ve encountered the seasonal flu, a common yet often misunderstood ailment. Let’s dive into what seasonal flu is and how you can protect yourself and your loved ones.

What is Influenza?

Influenza, commonly known as the flu, is a viral infection that can sometimes be confused with COVID-19. It spreads through coughs, sneezes, or touching infected surfaces – think doorknobs or smartphones. The spread patterns vary, but it’s a global concern, affecting people everywhere.

Types of Flu Viruses

There are four main types of influenza viruses – A, B, C, and D. However, it’s types A and B, particularly subtypes A(H1N1) and A(H3N2), that often lead to seasonal outbreaks.

Each year there will be seasonal trends on the type of variant of Influenza virus spreading in the community. Currently circulating in humans are subtype A(H1N1) and A(H3N2) influenza viruses.   Only influenza-type A viruses are known to have caused pandemics. Influenza B viruses are not classified into subtypes but can be broken down into lineages. Influenza type B viruses belong to either B/Yamagata or B/Victoria lineage.

Recognizing the Symptoms

The flu can catch anyone off guard, with symptoms ranging from:

  • High-grade fever
  • Dry cough
  • Headaches
  • Muscle or joint pain
  • General tiredness
  • Sore throat and runny nose

In severe cases, some may experience breathing difficulties or even altered consciousness.

Who’s at Risk?

Certain groups are more vulnerable to the flu, including:

  • Pregnant women
  • Children under 5 years
  • Individuals over 65 years
  • People with chronic conditions (such as chronic cardiac, pulmonary, renal, metabolic, neurodevelopmental, liver, or hematologic diseases).
  • Individuals who have weakened immune systems.

These groups must be extra cautious, especially during flu season.

Navigating Complications

The flu is usually self-limiting in healthy individuals and resolves within 7 days to 14 days even without the use of anti-viral medicines. Most individuals after recovering from seasonal flu will have body pain and dry cough persisting for a few days to a few weeks, which is usually self-resolving. However, some individuals can have severe diseases, requiring the use of anti-viral medicines to prevent complications like lung involvement, and brain involvement like encephalitis or sepsis.

Early recognition and care are key to preventing these complications.

Diagnosis and Treatment: What to Expect?

Diagnosing the flu typically involves clinical evaluation, and in some cases, RTPCR tests. Treatment focuses on:

  • Staying hydrated.
  • Managing fever with medications.
  • Using decongestants and cough medicines.

Antiviral medications are usually given for:

  • Pregnant women
  • Children under 5 years of age
  • Aged 65 years and older.
  • People with other chronic illnesses like Diabetes, heart disease, preexisting lung disease like asthma, COPD, Cancer, etc.
  • People who are receiving chemotherapy or steroids
  • People with HIV or other immune deficiency conditions

Prevention: Your Best Defense

Preventing the flu is easier than you think:

  • Stay home when feeling unwell.
  • Wash and dry your hands regularly.
  • Keep a safe distance from those who are sick.
  • Practice proper cough and sneeze etiquette.
  • Cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing.
  • Dispose of tissues correctly
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth.
  • Use of mask if you are unwell, to present spread to others.

The Power of Vaccination

Annual flu vaccination is highly recommended, especially for high-risk groups and healthcare workers.

The best time to get vaccinated? Before the flu season kicks in fully.

  • Pregnant women.
  • children under 5 years of age.
  • aged 65 years and older.
  • People with other chronic illnesses like Diabetes, heart disease, preexisting lung disease like asthma, COPD, etc.
  • People with Cancer or receiving chemotherapy or steroids.
  • People with HIV or other immune deficiency conditions.
  • Health Care workers

The best time to get vaccinated is before the flu season kicks in fully. The flu vaccine is updated annually to address the specific strains of the flu virus expected to circulate in that season. So annually 1 time the vaccine is to be taken by all people mentioned above. But if you have not taken the vaccination yet, you can take the injection from September to January, as every year the seasonal flu may extend from September to January.

Conclusion: Stay Informed, Stay Healthy

Understanding the seasonal flu is your first step in staying healthy. Remember, if you have any concerns or fall into a high-risk category, it’s always best to consult a healthcare professional. Let’s keep ourselves and our communities safe by staying informed and proactive!

 

Feel free to contact our Internal Medicine Specialists on betsercare.com or your physician.

Dr. Sanoop Kumar Sherin Sabu
M.D. (Int Med), FCPM,
Institutor and Specialist in Lifestyle Disease Screening

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