Influenza Causes, Symptoms, Prevention And Treatment


The flu affects the nose, throat, and lungs, which are all parts of the respiratory system (influenza). Despite being widely referred to as the "flu," influenza is not the same as stomach "flu" viruses that cause vomiting and diarrhea.

Most flu patients bounce back on their own. However, influenza rarely can be lethal, along with its accompanying symptoms. The following individuals are more susceptible to flu complications:

  • Little kids < 2 years old
  • Adults who are above 65
  • Those who reside in long-term care facilities, such as nursing homes
  • People with weaker immune systems 
  • Pregnant women or those planning pregnancies during flu season
  • Persons with chronic illnesses, such as diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease, asthma, and other ailments
  • Those with an elevated body mass index (BMI) of 40 or more

Although the yearly flu shot is not 100% effective, it lowers the risk of developing serious infection-related consequences.


When an infected person coughs, sneezes, or talks, influenza virus droplets are sent into the air. Direct inhalation of the droplets is possible. You may also get germs from a surface, like a phone or a computer keyboard, and then put them in your mouth, nose, or eyes.

The virus is probably contagious from about a day before symptoms appear to about four days after they do. Children and others with compromised immune systems may spread germs for a little while longer.

As a result of continuing evolution, influenza viruses routinely develop new strains. Your body has already produced antibodies to combat that particular strain of the virus if you have previously experienced influenza. If new influenza viruses are anything like those antibodies, then if you have already had the disease or have been immunised against it, they may prevent infection or lessen the severity of it.

Additionally, you might not be protected from new influenza strains by antibodies against influenza viruses you have already encountered. The viruses you now have can be very different from those you had previously.

How to check if you have Influenza?

The majority of individuals who have the flu can take care of themselves at home and frequently do not need to visit a doctor.

Consult your healthcare professional straight away if you are experiencing flu-like symptoms and might develop problems. Antiviral medicine may help you feel better faster and avoid developing more serious issues.

Seek immediate medical attention if you have flu emergency symptoms. Adults may exhibit the following warning signs of an emergency:

  • Respiratory issues or lack of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Persistent dizziness
  • Seizures
  • Current medical issues getting worse
  • Muscular ache or extreme weakness

Children's emergency signs may include:

  • Having trouble breathing
  • Chest pain
  • Dehydration
  • Significant muscular ache
  • Seizures
  • Degradation of current physical ailments

Risk Factors

The following elements may affect your chance of getting the flu or its effects:

Age. The seasonal flu tends to affect people more severely in children under two and those over 65.

Circumstances of living or employment. Flu cases are more common in those who live or work in large communal settings, such as nursing homes or military barracks. Additionally, hospital patients are more vulnerable.

Compromised immune system. The immune system can be weakened by HIV/AIDS, blood cancer, anti-rejection drugs, long-term steroid usage, organ transplant, cancer therapies, and anti-rejection drugs. This could make it more probable to get the flu and cause problems.

Recurring illnesses. The risk of influenza complications may be increased by chronic illnesses. Examples include kidney, liver, or blood illness; diabetes; heart disease; diseases of the neurological system; metabolic disorders; issues with the airways; and asthma and other lung diseases.

Usage of aspirin before age 19. If they contract influenza, those under the age of 19 who are taking long-term aspirin treatment run the risk of developing Reye's syndrome.

Pregnancy. Complications from influenza are more common in pregnant individuals, especially in the second and third trimesters. This risk persists for up to two weeks after the baby is born.

Obesity. A greater body mass index (BMI) increases the likelihood of flu complications in a person.


Initial symptoms of the flu, such as a runny nose, sneezing, and a sore throat, may mimic those of a common cold. Colds typically take time to break. However, the flu often strikes abruptly. Although having a cold might be unpleasant, having the flu typically makes you feel much worse.

Flu symptoms often include:

  • Fever
  • Sore muscles
  • Sweats and chills
  • Headache
  • Continual dry cough
  • Breathing difficulty
  • Fatigue and sluggishness
  • Runny or congested nose
  • Unwell throat
  • Eye discomfort
  • Vomiting and diarrhoea are frequent, but more so in children than in adults.


Everyone over the age of six months should receive an annual flu vaccine. Your chance of contracting the flu can be decreased with the flu shot. Additionally, it may reduce the possibility of developing a bad case of the flu and necessitating a hospital stay.

As the symptoms of the flu and coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) are identical, immunisation against the flu is particularly crucial. It is possible that COVID-19 and the flu are both spreading simultaneously. The most effective defence against both is vaccination. The flu shot may minimise symptoms that might be mistaken for COVID-19-related ones. The number of persons requiring hospitalisation might be decreased by preventing the flu and reducing the number of those suffering from severe illness and consequences.  

The seasonal flu vaccine this year protects against four influenza viruses that are anticipated to be the most prevalent this flu season. The vaccination will be offered as a nasal spray and as an injection this year. For individuals 65 and older, a high-dose flu vaccination will also be available.

The age range for the nasal spray is 2 to 49 years old. Certain demographic groups—including:

  • Children under the age of two
  • People above the age of 50
  • Pregnant women
  • Between two and seventeen years old
  • Are using aspirin or a drug that contains salicylates
  • Those whose immune systems are compromised

Children between the ages of 2 and 4 who had asthma or wheezed during the preceding 12 months.

You are still able to receive the flu shot if you have an allergy to eggs.


Rest and a lot of water is typically all you need to recover from the flu. However, if you have a severe illness or are more likely to experience problems, your doctor may advise using an antiviral drug to treat the flu. Oseltamivir (Tamiflu), zanamivir (Relenza), peramivir (Rapivab), and baloxavir are other examples of these medications (Xofluza). These medicines might cut the length of your sickness by a day or two and help you avoid life-threatening consequences.

Oseltamivir is a medication that is administered orally. Through a device resembling an asthma inhaler, zanamivir is breathed. Anyone with certain chronic respiratory issues, including asthma and lung illness, should not take it.

Nausea and vomiting are possible adverse effects of antiviral medications. If the medicine is used as prescribed, these adverse effects could be taken while eating. If you do contract the flu, doing the following steps might lessen your symptoms:

  • Take in a lot of liquids. Use fluids like water, juice, and warm soups to prevent dehydration.
  • Rest. Increase your sleep to strengthen your body's defences against illness. Depending on your symptoms, you might need to alter your degree of exercise.
  • Think about painkillers. To ease the pain brought on by influenza, use acetaminophen (Tylenol, among others) or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, among others). Reye's syndrome, an uncommon but potentially deadly illness, should never be taken by kids or teenagers who are recuperating from flu-like symptoms.
  • Stay at home and keep ill children at home for at least 24 hours after the fever has subsided to help prevent the spread of influenza in your neighbourhood. 
  • Do not interact with others unless you are receiving medical attention, stay away from others until you feel better. If you need to leave your house to get medical help, put on a face mask. Regularly wash your hands.

Complications of Influenza

In young, healthy people, the flu is often not a serious condition. Even though you may feel awful when you have the flu, it usually goes away after a week or two with no lasting effects. At-risk toddlers and adults might experience issues like:

  • Pneumonia
  • Bronchitis
  • Asthma attacks
  • Heart issues
  • Infected ears
  • Syndrome of acute respiratory distress

Pneumonia is one of the most harmful side effects. Pneumonia may be fatal for elderly people and those suffering from a chronic condition.


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Page last reviewed: Mar 15, 2023

Next review due: Mar 15, 2025

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