The Flu

Winter Is Flu Season

Usually during late fall and early winter, people start getting exposed with the flu virus. As people stay indoors more due to cold weather, the flu is more easily transmitted. Add to this the germ factories we call schools are now in session and you have the perfect storm for the passing on of the flu virus to many people in our communities.

Flu symptoms such as fever and congestion are not only uncomfortable, they can be harmful life threatening for young children, the elderly and those among us with prior health issues.

It is possible to prevent getting the flu, but if you do get sick there are lots of ways to treat the symptoms, although the flu itself will have to run its course as most flu infections are viral and we don’t have a lot of great options for treating viral infections..

In order to prevent getting the flu there are certain things that you need to know such as what is the flu, how flu spreads, how it differs from a cold, and who is easily infected. In order to prevent being infected by the flu, we need to answer these questions first.


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Flu Defined

Flu is shorthand for influenza. This is a high infectious disease that is classified into two major types of the virus, influenza A and influenza B viruses.  These viruses usually attack the respiratory tract, giving us the heavy congestion and coughing we associate with a case of the flu.

The Difference Between Flu and Cold

At times, symptoms of the common cold and the flu appear to be similar. Both the flu and cold are respiratory tract types of viral infections. Flu symptoms continue to grow worse as time passes.  A cold just slightly weakens you but your health can be shattered by the flu and when you have the flu, just the thought of getting out of bed can be a major problem.

The flu can often come with a high fever, where a normal cold doesn’t. And for those with existing health problems, the flu is far more likely to make those existing health problems worse than a common cold.

Whenever you experience a common cold you may experience sneezing, sore throat, and congestion. Symptoms such as uneasiness in the chest, headaches, and coughing are the same for both patients of flu and common cold. Along with those symptoms, flu patients may suffer from weakness, fatigue, headache and high fever.  The common cold, like flu, isn’t life threatening.

There are some effective antiviral medications that can help to decrease flu infections if treated early.

Differences Between Influenza And “Stomach Flu”

Stomach flu is also called gastroenteritis and is very common. Gastroenteritis is an irritation within the intestines and stomach. Stomach flu may be caused by unclean water and contaminated food, both of which we would loosely associate with food poisoning – not a “flu” at all!

Common gastroenteritis symptoms are diarrhea, sickness, nausea, stomach pain, and unsettled stomach.

Influenza symptoms are totally different and are worse than those you get with “stomach flu”. You never know when you got infected with the flu virus since flu tends to come on quite unexpectedly.  Influenza enters into the body through the nose and settles within the respiratory tract.

How The Flu Spreads

After you know how flu spreads you can sometimes prevent an infection from occurring. Flu is very infectious, so it spreads naturally from one individual to the next via the air and also within crowded places like nursing homes, offices, military barracks, college dorms, school classrooms, market places, movie theaters, and malls, and places where ventilation isn’t up to speed or when you come into direct contact with someone who is infected.

You come into direct contact with the flu virus whenever you end up inhaling the flu virus with the air that is in the atmosphere or whenever you touch something that an infected person touched earlier, and touch your nose or eyes – both mucous membranes.

In order to prevent the spread of flu you need to keep your hands clean through washing your on a regular basis and by using a hand sanitizer that is alcohol based.  Don’t rub your nose and eyes with your hands too!

Who can get flu complications?

Anyone from an elderly person to an infant can get the flu. However, individuals who have a weak immune system and people who suffer from a chronic disease already like AIDS, asthma, bronchitis, kidney disease, heart disease, lung disease, and diabetes have a risk for the flu making their health problems much worse.

What are the most common flu complications?

These days there are numerous remedies and treatments that are available that treat or, to some extent, prevent some flu symptoms. Certain flu strains can be prevented by flu vaccine. Antiviral vaccines and medicines can help you greatly in reducing the flu’s severity in addition to how long the flu symptoms last.

Different Kinds Of Flu Viruses

The different kinds of viruses that cause the flu are classified into three main categories:

  • Influenza A, B and C.

Influenza A: Influenza A is the most common type of flu. Influenza A affects birds, mammals, and humans. With this flu virus type, bird flu is the most recent entry. In addition to bird flu, there is also Russian flu, Spanish flu, Asian flu, and Hong Kong flu that have millions of individuals all over the world already. Every year influenza A causes high death rates.  Flu vaccine may help to protect you against type A and type B flu viruses. Influenza A flu viruses can be found in various animals including seals, horses, whales, pigs, chickens, and ducks.

Influenza B: Seals and humans are affected by Influenza B.  It causes milder forms of flu infections and is less common.  Most annual flu vaccinations can prevent influenza B.

Influenza C: Humans and pigs are affected by Influenza C. This is a more constant type of flu virus and usually causes milder forms of respiratory tract symptoms  No flu shot is available for Influenza C.

Why Does Flu Usually Spread During Winter Months?

The winter months are when people stay indoors, and congregate in public places. Schools, shopping malls and other places where people are constantly in close contact are ideal places to spread disease.

The flu virus also can survive indoors for an extended period of time compared to when it is outdoors, making the spread of the flu relatively easy under these circumstances.

Basic Good Habits To Help You Prevent The Flu

  • While sneezing cover your nose and mouth.
  • Use tissue to blow your nose and then throw it away. Clean your hands immediately with soap.
  • Wash your hands frequently with warm water and soap and make sure that your hands are as germ free as possible. After you wash your hands, use a clean towel to dry them.
  • D on’t touch your mouth, nose, or eyes with your hands.
  • When away from home use an alcohol-based sanitizer. Alcohol helps to kill bacteria. That is why it is prescribed by doctors as a prevention method.
  • Enjoy a sauna bath. That will help you to relax and the virus at the same time cannot survive in a hot environment. When you are in a sauna, you breathe very moist and hot and that makes it impossible for a flu virus to survive. A steamy bathroom can help to relax the nasal passage, and it can help to thin and moisten mucus.
  • Drink lots of water. That will help to keep your mucous membranes hydrated well. Hot liquid help to relax upper respiratory infections.

While there is no guarantee you can avoid getting the flu, you can definitely increase your chances of not getting sick by using the above tips and by getting a flu shot. ER Specialists has the latest flu shot vaccine available for you now.

If you do get the flu, there’s a chance we can help lessen the severity of the illness. Give us a call of just come in – we are happy to help!

If you are experiencing symptoms of the flu and you can safely come to ER Specialists, we would love to help you.  If you are alone or have any doubt about getting to our facility safely, or, believe you are experiencing a medical emergency please call 911.