Flu is an infectious disease caused by a group of viruses of different species of influenza called influenza virus types A, B, and C. Very often people get confused between common cold and flu. Know the early signs and symptoms of flu so that you can take timely action.
What is flu?
Flu is a very unpleasant infection which affects the nose, throat, and lungs. It is common during winter seasons, and is therefore called as the seasonal flu.
Flu is contagious and spreads easily from person to person. When the infected person sneezes, the droplets containing the virus are released into the air, and when a healthy person inhales these droplets, the virus can infect the fresh host. There are two major types of flu namely, type A and type B and the third type is the swine flu.
What are the main symptoms of flu?
Symptoms of flu develop in 1 to 3 days of getting infected with the virus. Most of the infected people improve within a week after the infection, but the lingering-cough and tiredness may be present for a couple of weeks.
Severe tiredness and weakness
There is a clear distinction between tiredness and extreme fatigue. One of the earliest signs of flu is sudden and excessive tiredness and occurs before other signs appear. Although fatigue is common in cold, its severity is more in flu and indicates that your body is getting ready to fight the infection.
You will have a persistent cough especially during the early stages of the infection. This is the warning sign of flu and can occur along with wheezing and tightness of the chest. With time, the cough will produce mucus and phlegm which is rare during the early stages. It is very important for you to consult a doctor if you have asthma to prevent further complications. Also, a colored phlegm calls for a doctor’s help. Cover your mouth while coughing to prevent the spread of the infection.
Excessive coughing leads to a sore throat in the infected person and can worsen with time. Occasionally, a swollen throat may be present even in the absence of a cough, in some patients. You may feel itchy or scratchy feeling in your throat. This feeling is more weird while you swallow food or drinks. It is better to have sips of tea or soup to remove the discomfort.
Fever is an indication that the immune system is active and is fighting the infection. A high body temperature of 100.4F or above is common in most but not all the persons infected by the virus. Fever-reducing medications only lower your body temperature, but they do not cure the infection.
Body pains and chills
Don’t mistake your body pains with a workout. It can be a sign of early flu. Any part of your body can have pain, but it is more common in head and legs. Body aches and chills can be present at the same time or chills can occur later. Chills are usually followed by a fever.
Early symptoms of flu are not just restricted to the head or chest regions. Certain flu viruses can cause vomiting, diarrhea, nausea, and stomach pain. These symptoms are more common in children over adults. Overtime, vomiting together with diarrhea can lead to dehydration. So it is better to keep electrolytes handy.
Apart from the above symptoms, some patients can have worsening symptoms in the early stages of infection which require emergency medical care. They are:
- Chest pain and difficulty in breathing
- Bluish coloration of lips and skin
- Dizziness and confusion
- Recurrent fever which may or may not be associated with cough
When do you need a doctor’s consultation?
If you are normally a healthy and fit person, you may not need a physician when you have flu-like symptoms. You may just take rest so that you will soon feel better. Drink plenty of water, keep yourself warm, and take painkillers if necessary.
You need to visit a general physician if you:
- are above 65 years
- are pregnant
- have a weak immunity attributed to the cancer therapy
- have chronic medical conditions like diabetes, kidney/ heart/ lung diseases, etc.
- have worsening symptoms with time
In these conditions, you need extra care and treatment to prevent complications which may arise with the untreated flu.
Protect yourself from the nasty viruses in the next flu season. Detect the early symptoms to not only prevent the spread of the infection but also treat the infection in its early stage. Do not go to work until you stay free of fever for at least 24 hours in the absence of medication. Consult a doctor if the symptoms come back after an initial recovery or if they worsen.