Influenza flu or any influenza-like illness can result in health complications that are quite uncommon, including upper respiratory illness that affects the nose, throat, and lungs. Although a common cold and fever or cough can look small, they can put a lot of people at risk depending on their age and health condition.
This article is a comprehensive guide on influenza flu and the complications and risk associated with them.
What is Influenza Flu?
Influenza flu is a viral infection that affects the respiratory system – nose, throat, and lungs. Commonly known as flu, in general cases, flu resolves on its own. However, certain types of virus can cause havoc to the respiratory system causing serious problems.
Flu viruses travel through air droplets when someone coughs, sneezes or talks. You can inhale the droplets or pick up the germs from objects that are commonly touched such as telephones or computer keypads and then transfer it inside through nose, eyes, or mouth.
Influenza viruses are constantly changing with new strains appearing regularly. If you have had infected from one type of influenza virus, then your body might have made antibodies to fight that respective virus. If future types of influenza virus that you get infected are similar to the ones you’ve encountered before or by getting vaccinated, these antibodies can prevent the infection and lessen its severity.
However, antibodies against the same flu virus cannot protect you from new influenza strains that can be different immunologically from the one you were infected before.
Symptoms of Influenza-Flu
The symptoms of flu are common across age groups with a few changes in the intensity. Although it can affect young adults, there are higher chances of flu affecting different groups such as infants and children, pregnant women, and older adults of 65 years and above. Therefore, it is important to notice the early symptoms in them and consult a doctor for the right type of vaccination for early recovery and further spread of the condition.
Children and Infants
Children aged 5 years or younger can easily get affected by influenza flu as their immune system is still in the developing phase. In addition to this, if a child has other health complications such as diabetes, asthma, organ disorder, or others, there is a greater risk of getting affected by the virus.
Consult a doctor immediately if you notice any of the following symptoms:
- Trouble in breathing
- High fever along with sweat and chills
- Patches of blue-grey colour
- Persistent vomiting
- Trouble drinking enough fluids
- A decrease in appetite
It is best for children to take the flu vaccination to prevent themselves from influenza-like illness. However, a child of 6 months or even younger can not take the flu vaccines and hence must be kept away in contact from family members and friends.
Pregnant women are subject to influenza flu or influenza-like illness than regular women who are not pregnant. This is because pregnancy in women cause hormone fluctuations making the body go through changes in the immune system, lungs, and heart. If not treated properly, this can lead to premature labour or birth defects in the child.
Therefore, it is important to notice the symptoms of influenza flu or any of the following signs:
- A decrease in the movement of the baby
- High fever followed by sweats and chills
- Heavy pain or pressure-like feeling in your chest
- Vertigo or sudden illness
- Elevated blood pressure at home
Older adults (above 65 years of age)
People aged above 65 years old are prone to influenza flu and other health diseases. One of the reasons for this is during old-age, the immune system weakens, thereby making the possibility of any health condition worsen.
On noticing the following symptoms in an old-age person, it is vital to consult a doctor:
- Trouble in breathing
- Sweat or chills
- High fever
- No improvement in 3-4 days
- If the above-mentioned symptoms are worsening
The traditional flu vaccination is ideal for older adults, some that carry four times the regular dosage to build a stronger immune response and antibody protection.
A spread of any influenza-like illness is easy amongst people, especially in heavily populated places or places with interpersonal contact. Such places include childcare facilities, hospitals, schools, nursing home, office buildings, military barracks, and college hostels.
Flu Risk Factors: Who is at higher risk groups in an influenza flu?
Influenza flu is known to cause respiratory illness amongst many individuals, especially the elderly. Here are the other complications including the type of individuals that have flu-like risk factors. Some of them are:
- sinus problems
- ear infections
- myocarditis, or inflammation of the heart
- encephalitis, or inflammation of the brain
- inflammation of muscle tissues
- multi-organ failure
Health and Age Factors That Increase a Person’s Risk from The Flu
Now that we know the higher risk groups, here are the health and age factors of individuals that can increase the risk of a person from the influenza flu:
- Asthmatic individuals
- Blood disorders including sickle-like disease
- Neurological and neurodevelopment conditions
- People with chronic lung disease
- Individuals with diabetes mellitus
- Kidney disorders
- Liver disorders
- People with obesity issues or BMI over 40
- Heart diseases
- People with a weakened immune system such as HIV or AIDS or cancer including leukaemia or someone taking chemotherapy sessions, etc.
Steps to Prevent Influenza Flu
This is why it is important to get your flu shots yearly. If you feel you are at risk and have not taken the shot yet, get it as early as possible, especially if you will be around young children or older adults. Moreover, it can prevent the spread of flu.
It is recommended that everyone above the age of 6 months regardless of being healthy or at-risk must get the vaccinations. If you notice the symptoms of flu, immediately consult your doctor.
There are many different vaccinations available, from nasal spray to traditional shots. Basis of your condition and age, your doctor may recommend a certain type of vaccination. For instance, nasal sprays are not recommended for children under 2 years old, pregnant women, and adults above the age of 49 years old.
Some of the other ways of preventing the flu are:
- Practice basic hygiene such as washing your hands with soap and water frequently
- Using disinfectant on surfaces and objects that are commonly used and touched
- Covering coughs and sneezes with tissues to minimize the spread of infection
- Enough sleep; at least 8 hours a day
- Not touching your eyes, nose, and mouth
- Improve your immune health through regular exercise
Treating influenza flu within the first 48 hours of diagnosis is ideal and best recommended as it avoids further spread and provides a window for effective treatment.
Virus Prevention: Controlling the Spread of Infection
It is not just important to protect yourself from further complications, it is equally important to take measures for virus control and prevent the spread of the infection. Here are a few steps for the virus prevention:
– Wash your hands
Thorough and frequent hand washing is one of the most effective ways to control the spread of any infection. If you are not able to get soap, an alcohol-based rub is equally effective. The spread of any infection is most commonly seen through touching germ-affected areas.
– Contain and cover your cough and sneeze
Always cover your mouth and nose when you sneeze or cough. In order to contaminate your hands, it is ideal to use a tissue. Alternatively, use the inner crook of your elbow while sneezing or coughing as it is the least-touched body part and therefore reduce the spread. Do not forget to throw the tissue.
– Avoid crowds as much as possible
The flu can spread easily where there are people gathering. This could be child centres, schools, offices, buildings, malls, public transports, movie theatres, and others. By avoiding crowded areas during peak season, one can effectively reduce the spread of infection.
It is important to take preventive measures during a flu season or influenza pandemic. However, one must stay calm and alert during such times and spread positivity and kindness instead of panic and distress. Stay safe!
Also read: Blood sugar level chart by age