Influenza or ‘flu’ was first identified in 1933 and is a respiratory illness associated with infection by a virus. Symptoms frequently include headache, fever, cough, sore throat, aching muscles and joints.
What is Influenza?
There are two main types that cause infection: influenza A and B. Influenza A usually causes a more severe illness than influenza B, and so there is a wide spectrum of severity of illness ranging from minor symptoms through to pneumonia which can be life threatening especially in the elderly, asthmatics and those in poor health.
What are the symptoms of Influenza?
Flu can give you any of these symptoms;
- sudden fever – a temperature of 38°C (100.4°F) or above
- dry, chesty cough
- aching muscles
- limb or joint pain
- diarrhoea or upset stomach
- sore throat
- runny or blocked nose
- loss of appetite
- difficulty sleeping
Symptoms will usually peak after two to three days and you should begin to feel much better within five to eight days. However, you may have a lingering cough and still feel very tired for a further two to three weeks.
How is influenza diagnosed?
If you are otherwise fit and healthy, you don’t need to see your GP when you have flu.
You should see your GP if you have flu and any of the following applies to you:
- your symptoms have got much worse and include shortness of breath, chest pain or coughing up blood, or you have developed other symptoms that are not typical of flu, such as a rash
- your symptoms have lasted for longer than a week
- you have a medical condition that is making your flu worse
Your GP will diagnose flu based on your symptoms and your medical history
How is Influenza treated?
If you have flu, the chances are that you’ll be able to get well by looking after yourself at home. In which case you should:
- keep warm
- drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration
- try to take paracetamol or anti-inflammatory medicines such as ibuprofen to lower a high temperature and relieve aches
If you are in a ‘high-risk’ group and are more likely to suffer complications from flu, your doctor may prescribe antiviral medication. Antibiotics are not prescribed for flu as they have no effect on viruses. However, occasionally it may be necessary to treat complications of flu, especially serious chest infections or pneumonia, with a course of antibiotics.
Further general information can be found here: