Influenza: Life-threatening but Preventable
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Influenza prevails every year during rainy season (June – October) and winter (January – March). Influenza can be life-threathening and causes more complication than regular flu.
What is Influenza?
The disease is caused by the influenza virus which can be divided in two major groups:
- Seasonal Influenza which is the common cold that we all know, but the virus mutates constantly. Therefore, patients who already had the flu can get sick again but the symptoms will not be so severe as they should already have some kind of immunity.
- 2009 H1N1 Pandemic Strain which is cuased by the influenza virus H1N1 that further mutated. Most people will not have immunity and so it can spread widely. Today, it has become like seasonal influenza mixed with other strains.
How is Influenza Contracted?
People can get infected by influenza virus through breathing in droplets made when affected people cough or sneeze, and touch or use the same personal items as the patients such as towel, drinking glass, telephone, toy, remote control. When they rub their eyes or pick their nose, the virus can easily spred into their system.
Symptoms of Influenza
In general, influenza is more severe than the common cold. While influenza may cause sudden sickness, regular flu gradually shows the symptoms. More noticably, people who have influenza will have high fevers for a few days, especially children can have 39-40 degrees fever with shivers for 3-4 days. But common cold patients may not have high fever. Older teens and adults may suffer from major symptoms such as muscles ache, fatigue and loss of appetite.
A peril of influenza is that it can lead to complications such as pneumonia and encephalitis. People at risk these complications are small children, seniors, people who have congenital conditions such as heart disease, lung disease, diabetes, kidney disease and AIDS. These groups should see a doctor immediately when they have influenza.
Treatmet for Influenza
For most people, they will recover by themselves. If the symptoms are mild, they can be treated as necessary. For example, if they have high fever, wipe their body with moist towel and use paracetamol, but avoid aspirins. If they have runny nose, use decongestants and mucolytic medications. Drink plenty of water, eat only mild food and get a lot of rest, while avoiding exercise.
How to Prevent Influenza
- Wash hands often with water and soap or use alcohol gel – both patient and non-patient.
- Avoid sharing personal items with others such as drinking glass, straw, spoon, hand towel, handkerchief, etc.
- Avoid close contact with the patient or if need be, cover your nose and mouth with a mask.
- Eat healthy food by focusing on vegetables, fruits, milk, eggs, eat freshly cooked food and using a serving spoon.
- Get plenty of quality sleep
- Drink clean water
- Exercise regularly
- Avoid crowded or poorly ventilated areas for a prolong period of time.
- Get vaccinated more regularly. It is recommended that at risk group, such as people over the age of 50 or children from 6 months to 19 years of age, diabetics, people who have heart conditions, respiratory disease, people who tend to get sick with seasonal flu, healthcare professionals, or patients under immunosuppressants, etc.
Although influenza can be life-threatening, if we know how to prevent it, it will no longer be intimidating.