What is the flu?
The flu, also called influenza, is a respiratory infection caused by viruses. Each year, millions of Americans get sick with the flu. Sometimes it causes mild illness. But it can also be serious or even deadly, especially for people over 65, newborn babies, and people with certain chronic illnesses.What causes the flu?
The flu is caused by flu viruses that spread from person to person. When someone with the flu coughs, sneezes, or talks, they spray tiny droplets. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby. Less often, a person may get flu by touching a surface or object that has flu virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes.What are the symptoms of the flu?
Symptoms of the flu come on suddenly and may include:
- Fever or feeling feverish/chills
- Sore throat
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Muscle or body aches
- Fatigue (tiredness)
Some people may also have vomiting and diarrhea. This is more common in children.
Sometimes people have trouble figuring out whether they have a cold or the flu. There are differences between them:Signs and SymptomsColdFluStart of symptomsSlowlySuddenlyFeverRarelyUsuallyAchesSometimes (slight)UsuallyFatigue, weaknessSometimesUsuallyHeadacheRarelyCommonStuffy nose, sneezing, or sore throatCommonSometimes
Sometimes people say that they have a "flu" when they really have something else. For example, "stomach flu" isn't the flu; it's gastroenteritis.What other problems can the flu cause?
Some people who get the flu will develop complications. Some of these complications can be serious or even life-threatening. They include:
- Ear infection
- Sinus infection
- Inflammation of the heart (myocarditis), brain (encephalitis), or muscle tissues (myositis, rhabdomyolysis)
The flu also can make chronic health problems worse. For example, people with asthma may have asthma attacks while they have flu.
Certain people are more likely to have complications from the flu, including:
- Adults 65 and older
- Pregnant women
- Children younger than 5
- People with certain chronic health conditions, such as asthma, diabetes, and heart disease
To diagnose the flu, health care providers will first do a medical history and ask about your symptoms. There are several tests for the flu. For the tests, your provider will swipe the inside of your nose or the back of your throat with a swab. Then the swab will be tested for the flu virus.
Some tests are quick and give results in 15-20 minutes. But these tests are not as accurate as other flu tests. These other tests can give you the results in one hour or several hours.What are the treatments for the flu?
Most people with the flu recover on their own without medical care. People with mild cases of the flu should stay home and avoid contact with others, except to get medical care.
But if you have symptoms of flu and are in a high risk group or are very sick or worried about your illness, contact your health care provider. You might need antiviral medicines to treat your flu. Antiviral medicines can make the illness milder and shorten the time you are sick. They also can prevent serious flu complications. They usually work best when you start taking them within 2 days of getting sick.Can the flu be prevented?
The best way to prevent the flu is to get flu vaccine every year. But it's also important to have good health habits like covering your cough and washing your hands often. This can help stop the spread of germs and prevent the flu.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Influenza FDA Approved Drugs
- Treatment of acute uncomplicated influenza in adults.
- Treatment and prophylaxis of influenza.
Felter's Materia Medica on Influenza
A stearopten (having the nature of a ketone) derived from Cinnamomum Camphora. (Linné), Nees et Ebermeier (Nat. Ord. Lauraceae). China and... / ...dropped into hot water, gives relief in nervous headache, and often aborts acute colds, coryza, and influenza, giving respite from the excessive secretion and the accompanying headache. A solution of ... / ...due to gaseous distention of the stomach, or to nervous irritability. In occipital headache, from mental strain, or overstudy, small doses of 1
I. Cinnamomum Saigonicum. Dried bark of an undetermined species of Cinnamomum. Chiefly from China. II. Cinnamomum Zeylanicum. Dried bark of... / ...idal action is exerted by it in acute infections, as common colds, and as la grippe or epidemic influenza. Aromatic bodies, like cinnamon and camphor, have been overlooked in recent years, though ...1
...riosteum; cough, embarrassed breathing, and pain in the chest; urine turbid and urination frequent; influenzal cough and aching pain. Action.Eupatorium, in small doses, acts as a simple bitter; in l...... or no fever. If there are pleuritic pain and hoarseness, it is also valuable. In every epidemic of influenza it has been used with great advantage. During the severe pandemic of 1918-19 it was one of...1
The bark of the root of Euphorbia corollata, Linné (Nat. Ord. Euphorbiaceae). Dry fields and woods of Canada and the United States. Common Names:... / ...21, page 459) praises Euphorbia as an excellent sedative for persistent, irritative cough following influenza, and that due to chronic catarrhal inflammation of the larynx and pharynx. The glottis see... / ...from the pulmonic, gastro-intestinal, or urino-genital mucosa; or the tough, glutinous tracheo-broncho-pulmonic secretions, with irritation.1
The lichen Sticta Pulmonaria, Linné (Nat. Ord. Lichenes). Found upon tree trunks and rocks in England and the eastern United States, mostly in... / ... in the chest walls, or the smaller joints. Muscular pain accompanying catarrhal fever and epidemic influenza is relieved by it. Over the various types of cough described under specific indications it... / ...relieved by it simulates lameness, is increased by taking a deep breath, and feels like that arising from a bruise or muscular overexertion.1
Physician's Materia Medica on Influenza
Bitter principle obtained from various species of SALIX and PoPULUs. Bitter tonic, antiseptic, antipyretic. Used to abort an incipient cold, in influenza and hay asthma, in neuralgia and as a substitute for salicylic acid in rheumatism. It sometimes cures obstinate diarrheas, and is a useful succedaneum for quinine where that remedy is not well borne. Dose. 0.6 to 2.0 Grm. (10 to 30 grs.), every one, two or four hours.2
Physician's Therapeutics Memoranda on Influenza
The remedies most prescribed in the early stage are; aconlte and potassium citrate to control the febrile symptoms; phenacetin or acetanilid, often combined with salol, for their analgesic action; quinine salicylate, aspirin, salicylic acid; calomel followed by a saline purge. The bronchitis must be treated in the usual manner, avoid ing depressing agents such as tartar emetic. Cannabis indica is a safe sedative in these cases. Combat the peculiar depression as the case progresses by strychnine ...2
2) Nelson, Baker & Co., 1904, Physician's Handy Book of Materia Medica and Therapeustics, Detroit, Michigan.