It's that time of year again! Flu season has arrived.
Flu signs and symptoms usually come on suddenly. According to the CDC, people who are sick with flu often feel some or all of these symptoms:
Fever* or feeling feverish/chills
Runny or stuffy nose
Muscle or body aches
Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in children than adults.
*It’s important to note that not everyone with flu will have a fever.
Most people who have the flu have a mild illness and do not need to see a doctor, according to The Mayo Clinic. Many will feel better within a week after rest and self-care. Some symptoms such as a dry cough could last longer.
In some cases, flu-related complications can occur, which could require a visit to a primary care provider.
When to visit your physician
If you or someone you're caring for is at high risk of flu-related complications and you suspect the flu, call the doctor. For those at high risk of flu-related complications or who have severe disease, there's a greater chance that the flu might lead to pneumonia, bronchitis, sinus infections and, rarely, hospitalization or death. It can also worsen chronic health problems such as asthma and congestive heart failure.
You have an increased risk of flu-related complications if you:
Are younger than 12 months of age
Are 65 years old or older
Are pregnant or have given birth in the past two weeks
Are younger than 19 years of age and are receiving long-term aspirin therapy
Have certain chronic medical conditions, including lung diseases such as asthma, an airway abnormality, heart disease, diabetes, neurological or neurodevelopmental disease, and kidney, liver or blood disease
Have a weakened immune system due to factors such as long-term use of steroids or other immunosuppressants, HIV, organ transplant, blood cancer, or cancer being treated with chemotherapy
Have a body mass index (BMI) of 40 or greater
Live in a long-term care facility such as a nursing home
Are in the hospital
If you're in one of these groups or you have evidence of severe influenza infection, your doctor may prescribe an antiviral medication — such as oseltamivir (Tamiflu) or zanamivir (Relenza) — to reduce the severity and length of your symptoms.
According to the CDC, Influenza is believed to be transmitted from person to person through droplets that are generated when someone speaks, coughs or sneezes. In order to prevent the spread of viruses, it is important to cover ones nose or mouth when coughing or sneezing, use tissues to contain droplets and dispose of them immediately after use and perform thorough hand hygiene. The CDC also recommends wearing a mask when you have influenza symptoms and are in a public setting.
Reference: CDC and The Mayo Clinic