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2017-2018 Flu Season: Facts and Treatment

In literal terms, the flu season is an annually (yearly) recurring period of time that is characterized by the prevalence of influenza virus outbreaks. Due to the frequency of germ spreading actions (sneezing, coughing, etc..) in lower temperatures, the flu season occurs during the colder half of the year. Thus, the flu season typically lasts from October through March, occasionally until May, and reaches it’s peak around February.

This year’s flu season follows suit; it officially began roughly one week ago (October 2017) despite unusually high temperatures around the country, and will run through until March 2018. During the flu season, reported cases of influenza often increase nearly tenfold, sometimes even more.


Flu Symptoms

Influenza is a very common and highly contagious respiratory infection that when left improperly treated, can cause serious illness and in some cases, can lead to death. When you have the flu, you tend to develop a bad cough, sneezing, a stuffy head, and generally feel “bad” all over. The most common symptoms of the flu include:

  • Fever (lasts 3-4 days)
  • Chills
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Muscle/body aches
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue (tiredness)
  • Vomiting/diarrhea (more common in children)

Due to similarities in the symptoms, people tend to get confused as to whether they have the flu or a cold. However, the speed and intensity of the onset of the symptoms is far greater when dealing with the flu.


Flu Complications

Ordinarily, people infected with the flu can recover in as little as three days and sometimes as much as two weeks on the higher end. However, some people develop prolonged complications as a result of the virus, some of which can even be life-threatening. Some of these complications may include:

  • Pneumonia
  • Bronchitis
  • Myocarditis (inflammation of the heart)
  • Encephalitis (inflammation of the brain)
  • Sinus infection
  • Ear infection
  • Organ failure (most severe)

The flu can also intensify chronic health problems. For example, someone with asthma may experience severe, more frequent asthma attacks when they have the flu, or someone with chronic congestive heart failure could experience worsening of their condition, which is triggered by the flu.


Flu Treatment

Treatment tends to depend on your symptoms, meaning if you have nasal or sinus congestion, then a decongestant can be helpful. If you have a runny nose and consistent sneezing and coughing, an antihistamine could be most helpful. If you are diagnosed with the flu, antiviral drugs could be a treatment option, but you should check with your doctor promptly if you are at risk of serious complications. For the most part, however, people prefer treating the flu with home remedies.

In general, at-home treatment consists of taking in plenty of fluids and getting rest to let your body fight the infection on its own. To help alleviate symptoms, over-the-counter anti-inflammatory pain relievers or throat lozenges are also recommended if the pain or discomfort becomes too much. The CDC recommends taking the following steps to treat the flu:

  1. If prescribed by a doctor, take antiviral drugs
  2. Get rest and heavily increase your fluid intake
    • Drink water, orange juice or sports drinks to help flush out toxins from your body
  3. Take everyday precautions to protect others
    • Limit contact with people as much as possible
    • Cover your nose/mouth when coughing and sneezing to prevent spreading germs
    • Wash your hands often with soap and water
    • Clean and disinfect surfaces/objects that may be contaminated
  4. Stay at home until you are better
    • CDC recommends that you stay home at least 24 hours after your fever is gone (except to get medical care) WITHOUT the use of fever-reducing medicine