Influenza, often referred to as the “flu”, is a contagious viral infection that circulates each year from October to May. Symptoms usually last 7 to 10 days and can resemble the common cold. In addition to the sore throat, runny nose, and nasal congestion seen with a cold, a person suffering with the flu can have a fever, body aches, headache, fatigue and a cough. People with the flu are more likely to have more symptoms and feel more ill than those with a cold.
The goal of treatment is to ease symptoms and speed recovery. General recommendations include bed rest and lots of fluids. Acetaminophen or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs can relieve fever, headache and body aches. Decongestants and expectorants are used for cough and congestion. Many nonprescription cold and flu symptom relievers contain multiple drugs, so it is important to talk to your pharmacist to avoid taking more than the recommended dose of the same medication in two or more products. There are also some antiviral medications approved by prescription for the prevention or treatment of the flu that reduce the severity of symptoms, shorten the illness period, and help prevent complications. These products are not to be used as a substitute for the vaccine as they may not protect against all the flu viruses.
Complications that may develop from the flu include bronchitis, pneumonia, and sinus or ear infections. These complications are often bacterial and should be treated with an antibiotic. If symptoms of the flu begin to improve and then worsen, a bacterial infection may be the cause and the patient should seek medical care for evaluation. (Jobson Medical Information LLC, 2012)