The CDC defines influenza aka “flu” as “a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses that infect the nose, throat, and sometimes the lungs. It can cause mild to severe illness, and at times can lead to death.”
To find out if you have the flu, your health care provider will check your medical history and ask about your symptoms. True influenza is diagnosed by swabbing the inside of the nose or the back of the throat and testing the swab for the presence of the flu virus. The best way to prevent contracting influenza is by immunization with an annual flu vaccine.
If you think you have the flu, call your health care provider, especially if you are in one of the following high risk groups:
- 65 years of age or older
- at risk for flu complications due to chronic health issue
You may need to treat your illness with antiviral medication. You should stay home and rest and avoid close contact with others in your house to prevent them from contracting your illness. Hydrate. Drink plenty of fluids, especially water.
If you have to care for someone else with the flu, make sure to avoid close face to face contact. Protect yourself. Spend only the necessary amount of time with them. When holding sick children, position them so they are unable to cough directly in your face. Wash your hands properly and frequently with soap and running water. Alcohol-based hand sanitizer can be used “in a pinch” if soap and water are not readily available.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention advises to:
Seek immediate medical attention for a child “patient” if they exhibit any of the following symptoms:
- Fast breathing or trouble breathing
- Bluish lips or face
- Ribs pulling in with each breath
- Chest pain
- Severe muscle pain (child refuses to walk)
- Dehydration (no urine for 8 hours, dry mouth, no tears when crying)
- Not alert or interacting when awake
- Fever above 104°F
Seek immediate medical attention if a child less than 12 weeks old exhibits any of the following symptoms:
- Fever of ANY degree
- Fever or cough that improve but then return or worsen
- Worsening of chronic medical conditions
Seek immediate medical attention for your adult “patient” if they:
- Have difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
- Complain of persistent pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
- Exhibit persistent dizziness, confusion, inability to arouse
- Have seizures
- Are not urinating
- Have severe muscle pain
- Show signs of severe weakness or unsteadiness
- Have a fever or cough that improves but then returns or worsens
- Exhibit signs of worsening of a chronic medical condition.
This is not an all-inclusive influenza symptom list. Not everyone reacts the same when they contract the flu. Consult your health care provider (or Urgent Care if your provider is unavailable) for any other symptom that concerns you.