The Flu


A specific viral disease characterized by fever, runny nose, cough, headache, malaise and swollen nose and throat mucous membranes. The flu usually occurs in the winter and occurs in epidemics. In some severe cases, the flu can actually be fatal.

What causes the flu?
The flu is caused by a virus called influenza type A. The virus changes slightly from year to year, but is predictable. This yearly change is the reason that the vaccination is different from year to year. The virus is spread from person to person by direct contact and by air-born droplets. Unlike the viruses that cause the cold, we can fight influenza A virus with both vaccinations and anti-viral medications. Signs and Symptoms. For 48 hours after exposure, the virus replicates and spreads throughout your body. The onset of symptoms is rapid, with high fever and chills. Muscle aches in the back and legs, and headaches are common. Later the throat, lungs, nose and eyes become affected. The cough can be severe and produce colored sputum. The illness usually begins to resolve in two to three days. Cough can persist for weeks. In persons who are very young, very old, or have lung disease, pneumonia and bloody coughing can develop. Influenza can be fatal in these patients.

The disease is diagnosed based on the symptoms listed above. If there is a current flu epidemic, then influenza A is more likely. Fever and muscle aches are the hallmark features that differentiate the flu from a cold.

Elderly patients, pregnant women expected to deliver in the winter, patient's with heart or lung disease, and medical professionals are encouraged to take the vaccination every year. This vaccination is very safe compared with the potentially fatal disease. If you have not been vaccinated and are exposed to the flu, two anti-viral medicines are currently available that can prevent or reduce flu symptoms if given quickly. These anti-viral medicines are available by prescription only from your doctor. They can be helpful to anyone who is exposed to the flu at work or at home.

The key to treatment is early diagnosis. If diagnosed early, the two anti-viral medicines that are available can be prescribed and will reduce the fever, aches and chest symptoms of the flu. The medicine should be given early in the course of the illness to be helpful.

1) Aches, pains and fever are treated with Tylenol or Advil.

2) Nasal congestion is best treated with Sudafed and/or Afrin.

3) The cough is best treated with Robitussin DM or prescription cough medicine.

What should you do if you think you have the flu?
If you believe you have influenza, you should see your doctor immediately. Unlike a cold, your doctor can treat you much more effectively than you can treat yourself. Your physician will prescribe medication for you and may prescribe medication or vaccinations for your family members to prevent them from becoming infected. In addition to seeing your physician, it is important to reduce the spread of infection by washing your hands frequently, staying indoors and avoiding contact with very young children or the elderly.

If you have further questions about The Flu, please feel free to contact our office.

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The Flu
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