But before thinking about treatment, it is important to prioritize preventive measures. Few changes in hygiene already make a difference in disease control and prevention, especially in people who are in contact with someone infected.
In addition, it is important that people belonging to risk groups seek the vaccine. In 2018, according to the Ministry of Health, the vaccination campaign had little adherence, which caused the agency to extend the deadline.
Another warning is in relation to the number of deaths of children under 5 years of age due to complications from the disease.
According to the Ministry of Health, in 2018 there were 44 deaths from the disease within this group, in the previous year, in the period from January to June, there were 14. The low number of vaccinations was also recorded among pregnant women, in which only 71% of this public was immunized.
Read on and understand the importance of preventing flu.
The flu is a disease caused by the influenza virus, which is divided into three types: influenza A, B and C.
The types of flu are classified according to the combination of two proteins : Hemagglutinin (HA or H) and Neuraminidase (NA or N).
In Brazil, the three types of flu are in circulation, however, only types A and B can cause epidemics.
Influenza A, or influenza A, can manifest itself in both humans and other mammals and birds.
In influenza A, the virus is highly variable, which makes it more worrying in relation to prevention and vaccines, as the population’s immune system is not prepared to defend itself against this new threat.
An estimate in relation to these mutations points out that, on average, a new subtype appears every decade, such as H1N1 and H3N2, which are in seasonal circulation and which directly affect humans.
It was within this type of flu that the pandemic cases such as the Spanish flu occurred in 1918 and the swine flu in 2009.
Other types of influenza A viruses, of animal origin, can affect humans, causing more serious complications. They are H5N1, H7N9, H10N8, H3N2v, H1N2v, H7N9 and others.
The influenza B virus, different from type A, is present only in humans and marine mammals. Because it does not affect a wide variety of species, it has no potential to cause pandemics.
The quadrivalent vaccine offered by the Unified Health System (SUS) is capable of preventing it.
It is also not a virus that has great variability, and mutations are rare. The two main strains are Yamagata and Victoria, not being divided into subtypes.
In general, due to all these characteristics of the influenza B virus, it can be said that generally people already have immunity to defend themselves against this type.
Symptoms are usually milder and the patient is rarely required to be hospitalized.
Influenza C is a risk of infection for humans and pigs and is not considered a seasonal flu.
It is also not a concern in cases of pandemics or major epidemics, causing only local outbreaks.
The symptoms of this disease can lead to mild respiratory problems, and in most cases, it does not manifest symptoms in humans.
The flu is a disease caused by the invasion of the influenza virus in our body. The name influenza has its origin in Latin, influentia.
The term appeared between the fourteenth and eighteenth centuries and was used to refer to major disasters, in which the cause was always attributed to the influence of astrological phenomena or the gods.
The word flu, usually used more, has its origin in the word grippe , a synonym for influenza in French.
In Brazil, three variations circulate: A, B and C. Types A and B are commonly responsible for seasonal epidemics, with type A having the greatest potential to cause pandemics.
Type C, on the other hand, is not considered a threat and does not have a major impact on public health. It causes local outbreaks, in which the reported symptoms are mild respiratory infections.
How does the virus attack the cell?
When you come into contact with the secretions of someone with the flu or with some surface on which the virus is housed, the chances of being infected are high. Assuming that this happens, we will describe how this infection happens.
First, the virus’s action is to host itself in some cell, usually in the respiratory system. It is the hemagglutinin protein, located on the surface of the virus, that is responsible for attaching itself to this host cell.
In sequence, the virus releases all of its genetic material into the nucleus of the host cell and begins to reproduce abundantly there. Thus, new viruses appear that spread through the patient’s body (infecting other cells) and the symptoms begin to appear.
In response, antibodies tend to respond to these symptoms. It is not always possible to rely only on this natural defense of the organism, especially when it comes to mutable viruses.
For this and other reasons, it is essential to seek medical attention for proper diagnosis and treatment.
How does the transmission happen?
The flu virus is contained in the millions of tiny droplets that come out of the nose and mouth when someone who is infected coughs or sneezes.
These droplets can spread for about a meter, being suspended in the air long enough to affect people around. When they descend to the ground or on other surfaces, they can survive for up to 24 hours.
The transmission period varies according to some conditions. Adults, for example, can transmit the virus within 24 to 48 hours before symptoms appear.
Even though the risk is less than in the symptomatic period, the infected person is already able to transmit the virus to other people before they even show symptoms of the disease or know that they are sick.
In the symptomatic period, the peak of transmission occurs in the first days, between 24h and 72h of the manifestation of the disease. According to the progression and treatment of the disease, there is a reduction in the likelihood of contagion. By the fifth day, the risks are much lower.
People with immunosuppression, on the other hand, can transmit the virus for months or weeks. Children also show a larger window, transmitting the virus earlier and for longer periods.
There are two forms of transmission: direct or indirect. The direct is the most common, being the one that happens from person to person, by contact with droplets of saliva through speech, sneezing or coughing.
Indirect transmission also occurs due to contact with an infected person’s secretions.
Normally, the hands are the main vehicle for the entry of the virus, in which, after contact with some contaminated surface, they introduce the virus into the organism by touching the eyes, mouths and nose.
For this form of transmission to occur, the viral load (amount of virus present in the body) is considered.
Environmental factors such as humidity and temperature influence how the disease spreads.
Household items or public places can easily become contaminated with traces of the flu virus, including food, door handles, remote controls, handrails, telephone sets and computer keyboards.
So, it is important to wash your hands frequently to avoid catching and spreading the flu and / or using alcohol gel on your hands and surfaces.
How to avoid transmission?
As seen, the flu virus usually spreads in small drops of liquid when you cough or sneeze and are transmitted through the air. These droplets can “travel” by a meter or more and infect anyone who inspires them, that is, all of us.
In the same way that it is necessary to take preventive measures, it is also essential to take care not to spread the virus and contaminate others.
If symptoms appear, follow these recommendations:
- Cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze;
- Thoroughly sanitize your hands and surfaces you touch, such as the keyboard, phone, tables, etc .;
- Do not share personal items with other people;
- Avoid leaving home during the transmission period (up to 7 days after the onset of symptoms);
- Avoid crowded and poorly ventilated environments;
- Adopt healthy habits, such as fluid intake and nutritious foods, such as those that have anti-inflammatory action and vitamin C.
Groups of risk
Anyone can be infected with the flu virus, however, in Brazil, some groups are placed as a priority in relation to the vaccine.
These groups were chosen by studies carried out in relation to the risks they run if they are not immunized, considering factors such as region, age group and other adjacent diseases. Are they:
Children from 6 months to under 5 years
Children have a longer transmission period when compared to adults and are therefore considered a priority in the vaccination campaign.
Pregnant and puerperal women
Pregnant women or women within 45 days of delivery (puerperium) should be vaccinated. In the case of pregnant women, vaccination can be applied at any time during pregnancy.
Due to changes in the immune system, in the pulmonary and circulatory systems, women in these two conditions are more likely to have serious complications, such as the need for hospitalization.
In addition, influenza can also cause complications for pregnancy, such as problems in labor or premature birth .
Because they are in direct contact with patients, healthcare professionals are at greater risk. This group includes doctors, nurses, employees in administrative areas, care or general services.
Vaccination should be administered to indigenous people of any age group or region of the country. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the indigenous population is considered a risk group because they have immune memory that is less resistant to the virus, because they live in more remote regions or because they have greater difficulty in accessing the health service.
The lack of immunological memory of more remote indigenous populations is due to the fact that they do not have such frequent contact with the virus, unlike the population that lives in large urban centers. Thus, contact with the virus can cause major complications.
People aged 60 and over
Due to changes in the immune system, as a result of the natural aging process, the elderly become more vulnerable to the flu virus and other infections, especially those that affect the respiratory system. They are also at greater risk of complications and hospitalization.
After the insertion of this group as a priority, the mortality and morbidity rates were significantly reduced.
Prisoners and prison staff
All people who are serving time in the prison system or who are under socio-educational measures, such as adolescents and young people aged 12 to 21, should receive the flu vaccine, as they are in a condition considered to be at risk of spreading the virus.
The same goes for people who work in this environment, such as guards, security guards and other sectors.
This is because crowded environments with poor ventilation favor the spread of the virus and increase the chances of contagion.
People with chronic non-communicable diseases and special clinical needs
These people should seek a document with medical justification to prove the condition and evaluate the indication of vaccination in the Health Units. The following conditions are considered to be at risk:
- Respiratory diseases, such as asthma, bronchiectasis, cystic fibrosis, bronchopulmonary dysplasia, pulmonary arterial hypertension and children with chronic lung disease of prematurity;
- Heart diseases, such as systemic arterial hypertension, heart failure and congenital or ischemic heart disease;
- Kidney diseases, such as nephrotic syndrome and dialysis patients;
- Liver diseases, such as biliary atresia, chronic hepatitis and cirrhosis;
- Neurological conditions that can compromise respiratory function, patients who have had a stroke, cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, etc .;
- Diabetes: diabetes Mellitus type I and II;
- Immunosuppression (congenital or acquired);
- Grade III obese;
- Transplanted, whether bone marrow or solid organs;
- People with Down syndrome, Warkany syndrome, Klinefelter syndrome, etc.
Flu symptoms usually peak 2 to 3 days after infection and the patient should begin to feel better within 5 to 8 days.
However, the patient may have a persistent cough and still feel very tired for another 2 or 3 weeks.
The flu can cause any of these symptoms:
- Sudden fever with a temperature of 38 ° C or more;
- Dry or phlegm cough;
- Headache ;
- Muscle aches;
- Pain in the limbs or joints;
- Diarrhea or stomach pain;
- Pain or irritation in the throat;
- Runny nose or stuffy nose;
- Loss of appetite;
- Shortness of breathe;
- Swollen lymph nodes;
- Difficulty sleeping.
When to see a doctor?
Consulting a specialist should be a priority for those concerned with their own health, considering that self-medication is a risky attitude and is not recommended.
In the case of the flu, many people do not consult a doctor because they think it is not a serious illness.
Usually, the flu does not cause major complications, but this does not eliminate the risks, especially for groups such as pregnant women, children, people who have other clinical conditions and the elderly, for example. Especially these groups should consult a doctor.
So, if you are within these risk groups and have symptoms, see a doctor. After the consultation, continue the treatment according to the recommendations, stay hydrated and rest.
The patient must return to the doctor as directed or in the following situations:
- If your symptoms have worsened and include shortness of breath, chest pain or bloody cough;
- In the presence of other non-flu-like symptoms, such as a rash, for example;
- If the symptoms last more than a week, without improvement;
- If you have a medical condition that is making your condition worse;
- Persistent vomiting;
- Flu-like symptoms that improve, but then return more intense, such as fever and cough;
- Sudden dizziness;
- Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen.
Flu in pregnancy
The flu in pregnancy can be worrying because of the risk of complications for the health of the woman and the baby. Due to changes in the immune, cardiac and pulmonary systems during pregnancy, pregnant women become more vulnerable to more severe influenza, leading them to hospitalization, in more serious cases.
Fever, for example, a common symptom during the flu, can be related to neurological complications and other adverse results for the healthy development of the child.
The best way to prevent influenza for pregnant women is vaccination. In addition to ensuring immunity during pregnancy, the vaccine also protects the baby for months after birth.
As a reinforcement to the vaccine, pregnant women can take some preventive or care measures when they are sick:
- Seek medical help in case of flu symptoms;
- Start treatment as soon as possible, as antiviral drugs work best within the first 48 hours of the onset of symptoms;
- Among the antivirals available, use Oseltamivir, as there are more studies proving the beneficial effects for pregnant women;
- Never self-medicate ;
- Keep the fever under control and return to the doctor if it does not subside even with the prescribed treatment;
- Stay at rest;
- Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water;
- Correctly follow the use of medications, as prescribed by the doctor;
- Consume foods rich in vitamin C, such as acerola, strawberry, tangerine, orange;
- In case of fever, place a wet washcloth on the forehead and armpits to regulate body temperature.
Influenza in babies
Children under 6 months are the most vulnerable to the flu, as they are not yet able to receive the vaccine. For them to be protected it is important that the people around them are immunized and maintain hygiene habits.
For example, when the pregnant woman receives the vaccine during pregnancy she is able to guarantee the child’s immunity for months after delivery. Therefore, it is important that the woman receives the vaccine not only for her health but also for the baby’s health. And that goes for other people close to the child. At 6 months, the child can and should receive the vaccine, after medical advice.
Children under 5, in general, should receive the flu vaccine, as they are present among risk groups, especially when they have a chronic health problem such as asthma , diabetes or any problem related to the nervous system.
Some basic precautions that can be taken to prevent influenza up to six months involve exclusive breastfeeding with breast milk, which helps to strengthen the child’s immune system.
Low vaccination rates favor the increase in infant mortality due to complications from the flu, so it is essential that those responsible take them to receive the vaccine.
In addition to vaccination, those responsible should pay attention if typical flu symptoms appear, such as high fever. If the baby has symptoms, it is essential to seek medical help as soon as possible to start treatment.
Some signs are considered as alerts to seek medical help. Those responsible should be aware of the following symptoms or behaviors:
- Inability to eat or lack of appetite;
- Difficulty breathing;
- I cry without tears;
- If the child is urinating significantly less than normal;
- Great irritation;
- Apathy or excessive sleep;
- When flu symptoms improve, but then return with a high fever and a more severe cough;
- Fever with rash (redness);
- Do not drink enough fluids.
What is the difference between a flu and a cold?
Confusion between these two diseases is very common, despite the fact that they are different pathologies. The main difference is that they are caused by different types of viruses.
The flu is caused by a single virus, the influenza virus, while the cold is caused by many others, such as rhinovirus, parainfluenza and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV).
Because of this greater variety of causative viruses, it is much more common to get a cold than to catch the flu.
The symptoms in the two diseases are very similar, but usually, in the cold, they are milder. What differentiates them most, in relation to physical signs, is the presence of fever, being uncommon or milder in the cold.
When fever is a symptom present in the cold, it is much less severe than in the flu. Both conditions can cause sore throat, runny nose and malaise. However, despite the discomfort, the cold usually does not prevent the person from performing their daily tasks.
This point is considered important in differentiating the two diseases. The flu is capable of making the patient much more debilitated, as it causes high fever, muscle inflammation and a great indisposition.
Thus, if what the patient is feeling leaves him unable to go to work, study or do any activity, it is more likely to be the flu and not a cold.
In addition to being confused with a cold, it is common for people to confuse the flu with allergic rhinitis, a disease that also causes irritation in the throat, nasal congestion, sneezing and runny nose.
However, in spite of “passing” through the flu, allergic rhinitis is not transmissible, but a chronic disease.
Difference between flu, dengue and Zika
Although these diseases have some similar symptoms, they are different clinical conditions. Zika and dengue , for example, can present, in addition to the common symptoms of the flu, itching and red spots on the patient’s body.
Zika, unlike dengue, takes about 7 days for remission to occur. The symptoms of dengue, as they are more severe, can take 7 to 15 days to disappear.
In addition to the symptoms and the time of remission, another important factor to differentiate these conditions is the mode of transmission. In influenza, the virus is passed from person to person, while in dengue, the virus is transmitted through a vector, Aedes aegypti .
In influenza, mainly in the H1N1 subtype, symptoms such as nasal congestion and runny nose are more present. In dengue patients, however, they are not so common.
Signs such as headache, feeling tired and body aches are more frequent. Pain behind the eyes is also common in cases of dengue.
Zika patients initially have milder symptoms. Thus, the condition often goes unnoticed. Nasal congestion, sore throat and cough are uncommon. The strongest features are red spots on the body and itching, which can last for weeks or months.
How is the diagnosis made?
Many illnesses have flu-like symptoms (especially viral illnesses), so it is important to seek medical help to investigate whether this condition really is.
It is possible to perform tests in which a sample of secretion from the throat of the infected person is collected. In it, it is possible to identify which virus is present in the patient’s organism.
In some cases, depending on the severity of the symptoms or if it is within the risk groups, treatment can be started before laboratory diagnosis.
Although these recommendations are ideal, people often treat themselves at home, with rest, consumption of fluids and medications that help to alleviate symptoms, such as painkillers and antipyretics.
However, self-medication is not a recommended practice . To ensure that your health is preserved, it is best to seek help from a professional.
The doctor who usually makes the diagnosis is the general practitioner . Treatment is usually carried out with the accompaniment of a pediatrician, pulmonologist and infectious disease specialist .
It is possible to diagnose the flu in tests that use respiratory secretions or blood samples. However, according to the Ministry of Health, blood collection should not be performed for a simple diagnosis, but for monitoring the patient’s clinical evolution or for a differential diagnosis.
The most common tests are called rapid flu diagnostic tests (RIDSTs). These tests work by detecting antigens (parts of the virus) that stimulate an immune response.
The response of these tests is usually very fast, bringing the results within 10 to 15 minutes. Other tests that take the same time are rapid molecular tests, which are responsible for detecting the genetic material of the virus. Molecular tests are often more accurate than RIDSTs.
For a more reliable diagnosis, which identifies the causative agent of the disease, some laboratory tests may be ordered by the doctor. They are also simple exams, basically the collection of secretion in the throat with a cotton swab. The result of these tests can take 1 hour or more.
Some examples are:
Examination of detection and characterization of H1N1
It is an examination done with a sample of respiratory secretions, collected between the third and the seventh day of the onset of symptoms. To identify the flu virus, this test seeks to find and analyze the genetic material of the virus and to point out whether or not it is the H1N1 subtype.
IgG and IgM Parainfluenza antibodies (types 1,2,3 and 4)
This test is done from a blood sample of the patient, with the aim of detecting the presence of antibodies of the Parainfluenza virus in all its types.
IgG and IgM Antibodies to Influenza A and Influenza B
It is also performed using a blood sample. In this test it is possible to identify the IgG and IgM antibodies, present when there is an infection by the Influenza A or B viruses.
For greater precision of the result, it must be carried out from 7 to 10 days of the contact with the virus.
Respiratory virus panel
It is carried out through samples of respiratory secretions to detect the genetic material of ten different types of viruses: Influenza A, Influenza B, Metapneumovirus, Respiratory syncytial, Coronavirus , Enterovirus, Adenovirus, Bocavirus, Parainfluenza and Rhinovirus.
Haemophilus Influenzae type B
This test is used to specifically identify the presence of the Influenza B virus. It is also performed using a blood sample.
Is there a cure? What is the treatment?
Although the influenza virus has more serious variations, which can cause and have already caused major epidemics, influenza is a disease that can be cured and can be prevented .
Treatment includes basic care such as rest, staying warm and drinking plenty of water to prevent dehydration.
If the feeling of malaise and symptoms such as fever persist, medications with the active ingredient acetaminophen or anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen , help to reduce high temperature and relieve pain.
In high-risk groups, which are more likely to suffer complications, the doctor may prescribe antiviral medication. However, these drugs have no action to cure the flu, but to alleviate the symptoms. Other effects of antivirals are:
- Reduce the length of time you are ill;
- Relieve some of the symptoms;
- Reduce the risk of more serious complications.
The antibiotics are not prescribed for flu as they are given to treat diseases caused by bacteria. Because the flu is caused by a virus, these drugs have no effect on them.
However, occasionally, it may be necessary to take antibiotics to treat complications from the flu, especially severe lung infections, or pneumonia .
There is a wide variety of drugs for the treatment of influenza, each with a focus on a symptom, often. The use, however, should not be done irresponsibly.
First, it is necessary to undergo a medical evaluation to confirm the need to use any of these available drugs.
Antivirals are a class of drugs that act directly against the action of the virus in the infected patient’s body.
Treatment with these antivirals, when started within two days after the onset of symptoms, usually reduces the signs and shortens the indisposition time by approximately one day.
These medications are also responsible for containing the risk of complications such as ear infections and pneumonia.
For those who have clinical conditions that favor complication, treatment with them decreases the chances of hospitalization.
In adults already hospitalized, medications can be a key factor in reducing the chances of death.
Side effects involve symptoms such as nausea and vomiting. Despite showing better results when administered early (two days after the patient becomes ill), starting them later can also be beneficial, especially when it is a condition with high risk of complications.
The duration of this treatment usually takes around 5 days, with a prescription of two doses a day. In hospitalized people, the time may be longer.
The main antivirals used against flu symptoms are Tamiflu and Relenza .
Tamiflu ( Oseltamivir )
Tamiflu is a medicine for oral use, available in the form of capsules or drops. Despite being effective against the flu virus, it does not replace the vaccine .
It must be taken within the first 48 hours after the onset of symptoms, so it is important to seek the correct diagnosis with a doctor, who must guide the patient regarding the dosage and time of use.
Typically, guidance is two tablets daily for five consecutive days. In cases of patients who have kidney disease, lower doses may be prescribed.
Some side effects of this remedy include nausea, vomiting, stomach pain and diarrhea . If these signs persist, see your doctor for a better assessment of the drug’s effects.
Relenza ( Zanamivir )
Relenza is a powdered antiviral used by inhalation. Like Tamiflu, it should also be administered within the first 48 hours after signs of the disease. In the case of children, it can be done before, with 36 hours.
The recommended dose is two inhalations twice a day, for five days. That is, the patient must take two inhalations at a certain time and two at a later time.
Respect the doctor’s instructions regarding the dosage and refer to a new consultation in case of any side effect.
Analgesics and antipyretics
They can be used, according to medical advice, to reduce body aches, sore throats, headaches and ears. Some common remedies in this class are Novalgina and Paracetamol.
They are used to relieve inflammation in the throat. Some that can be prescribed are Aspirin, Diclofenac and Ibuprofen.
Antiallergic, expectorant and cough remedies
They are used to reduce allergic cough, sneezing, runny nose, dry cough and help to eliminate secretions.
NEVER self-medicate or stop using a medication without first consulting a doctor. Only he will be able to tell which medication, dosage and duration of treatment is the most suitable for his specific case. The information contained in this website is only intended to inform, not in any way intended to replace the guidance of a specialist or serve as a recommendation for any type of treatment. Always follow the instructions on the package insert and, if symptoms persist, seek medical or pharmaceutical advice.
Home remedies for flu
Several people have homemade recipes to help relieve flu symptoms, as it can be very uncomfortable to live with signs such as cough, runny nose, sore throat and everyone else present in this disease.
Some of the tips involve the consumption of specific teas, fruits and soups, with nutrients that can help keep the patient hydrated.
It is worth remembering that these homemade recipes should not replace a treatment prescribed by a doctor, but serve to complement and bring better well-being.
Among the homemade tips, the most common include:
Some plants considered medicinal can help to relieve flu symptoms, as they have anti-inflammatory action. The most used options include lemon, garlic, elderberry, ginger and echinacea.
This drink can help the immune system to defend itself against the invading virus, reducing symptoms such as sore throat.
The juices that can help flu patients are those that have good amounts of vitamin C. Some fruit options are cashew, acerola, cramberry, orange juice and apple. Apple juice with honey, for example, is considered a good expectorant.
It is during the winter that people are most vulnerable to the flu, a time when temperatures drop and there is less air circulation in the environments. To alleviate the malaise that this disease brings, some soups can help.
In addition to being a warm food for cold days, the choice of ingredients can bring anti-inflammatory and expectorant benefits. It will also help the patient to stay more hydrated.
The taste may vary, but the ingredients that most bring these benefits should preferably be present, such as garlic and ginger.
As everything has its positive and negative side, so is the flu. It is very bad to have the flu, but it does not last for long. Usually, remission happens within a week or so.
Thus, the interaction is brief. During these days, some tips can soften the feeling of malaise and prevent transmission. Are they:
Faced with symptoms such as fever, the body loses a lot of fluid and therefore it is necessary to replace. Therefore, it is recommended that the patient drink plenty of water, teas and juices, especially fruits that can help to strengthen his immune system.
Have a good diet
A balanced diet is always welcome, regardless of the clinical condition. However, in the face of a disease like the flu, in which the body is already overturned, a diet low in nutrients can delay remission.
Therefore, opt for good meals, avoiding industrialized products and fast foods.
Rest, but not so much
The patient must remain at rest to improve, especially within the first 24 hours of the onset of symptoms, as this is considered the peak of transmission.
Also to be able to recover from symptoms such as fever, which requires greater care.
However, lying down all the time is not ideal. Moving around can help to ventilate the lungs better, also bringing a greater sense of well-being.
It is not necessary to carry out intensive activities, such as running or competitive sports, but walks, for example, are welcome.
Keep the house ventilated
In the case of patients sharing a room with other people, the ideal is to remain isolated until the symptoms improve. During the day, windows and doors must be open, for air to circulate and prevent transmission to others.
To improve breathing, inhalation or vaporization can help. This will make the patient have an improvement in well-being, as they are cares that help to reduce nasal congestion.
Washing your nose with serum, sea water or just taking a hot shower can also help.
Care to lower the fever
To help lower the fever, the patient can use antipyretic medications prescribed by the doctor, take baths at a moderate temperature and use damp cloths on the forehead and armpits. Thus, you will be able to help regulate your body temperature.
The complications of influenza mainly affect people in high-risk groups, such as the elderly, pregnant women and those who have a chronic medical condition or have a weakened immune system.
The most common complication is a secondary infection of the lungs. This can occasionally become serious and develop into pneumonia.
Although rare, there are more serious complications. Are they:
The tonsillitis is an infection that occurs in the tonsils – lymphoid tissues located in the region before the throat and help in protecting the body, because they belong to the immune system.
This is a condition that can be caused by different reasons. In this case, because it is a complication of the flu, it is considered a viral tonsillitis.
Symptoms that the patient may experience with tonsillitis include swelling and redness in the tonsils, pain when swallowing, pain in the neck and ears, difficulty eating and sleeping.
Other signs that may occur, but which are more rare, include nausea, vomiting, bad breath , loss of appetite and difficulty opening your mouth, for example.
The otitis is an infection that occurs in the ear and its main characteristic is the accumulation of fluid or pus on site.
In the case of otitis media, the infection occurs due to the presence of the virus in the inner ear, in which the virus installs itself through the auditory tube. The condition can still develop into bacterial otitis.
This happens when there is an accumulation of mucus in the nasopharynx, the inner part of the nose directly connected to the tube.
It is a more common complication in children, as they have a hearing tube considerably smaller than that of adults and an angle that favors the passage of fluids and secretions through the canal, as in the case of mucus in people who have a cold or flu.
The meningitis is an inflammation that occurs in the meninges, the membranes surrounding the brain and protect the central nervous system. It can happen for different reasons, but in the case of this complication it is considered a viral meningitis .
The symptoms are similar to those of the flu, the most characteristic sign of meningitis being the stiff neck.
The encephalitis is an acute inflammation of the brain is considered a serious complication. It can be caused by viral infections.
Despite being a not so common condition, encephalitis is a risk for people who have weakened immune systems, such as children, babies and people with a medical condition that affects the defense system.
Treatment is carried out with symptom care and medication administration, according to the cause. In simple cases, remission occurs between 1 and 2 weeks, with no sequelae.
However, when the condition is not treated properly, problems such as muscle paralysis, memory and learning problems, speech and hearing difficulties can occur, for example.
Aggravated chronic diseases
Infection caused by the flu virus can cause the patient to have an aggravation of chronic problems that he already suffered. For example, patients with asthma are more vulnerable to attacks while having a flu than when they are healthy.
The flu can also be complicated by the appearance of muscle problems such as myositis and rhabdomyolysis, diseases that can also be caused by viruses or an inflammatory process.
Rhabdomyolysis is a syndrome that is considered serious and usually occurs due to muscle damage. This injury occurs due to the failure of muscle fibers and they end up releasing their content into the bloodstream.
The most common symptoms of this condition are muscle weakness, severe muscle pain and dark urine.
In the case of myositis, the patient also has inflammation in the muscles. Thus, they become more painful and weak. The development of symptoms is rapid, and can leave the person unable to get out of bed due to the pain and weakness caused by the infection.
Viral and bacterial pneumonia
Pneumonia is an infection that directly affects the lungs, causing problems such as respiratory failure, high fever, chest pain , malaise and other symptoms. This infection happens due to the presence of an infectious agent, which can be a virus, bacteria, fungi or allergic reactions.
The flu is one of the risk factors for this disease to happen, as it leaves the patient’s immune system weakened, making it difficult to defend these invading agents.
Viral infections like the flu can cause more serious conditions, such as heart problems (such as myocarditis). This is the inflammation that affects the myocardium, the heart muscle responsible for pumping blood.
Myocarditis is a serious complication because it can cause the failure of this cardiac pump, in addition to causing arrhythmias.
The bronchitis is a respiratory infection characterized by the presence of mucus in the bronchial tubes, breathing tubes which carry air to the lungs. By causing this blockage in the passage of air, bronchitis ends up causing attacks of coughs and respiratory failure.
This is a condition, often confused with other respiratory problems, such as asthma.
When it comes to a complication caused by the flu, for example, this bronchitis is considered to be acute bronchitis.
The vaccine is the main form of prevention against influenza , considered a safe method of preventing the disease and reducing serious cases that can lead the patient to death.
It is made available annually during the National Vaccination Campaign, with a focus on some priority groups.
In 2018, the vaccine defined by the World Health Organization brought in its composition protection against the two strains of influenza A, H1N1 and H3N2, and against influenza B, thus being a trivalent vaccine. The campaign normally starts in the months of April until May.
Considering the time it takes the body to create specific antibodies to defend itself against the flu after the vaccine, two to three weeks on average, it is essential that the campaign be successful in these months, as it is during the winter that the circulation of the virus intensifies .
People who have severe egg allergies and children under the age of six months should not receive the vaccine. For groups at risk, the vaccine is applied free of charge. Are they:
- Pregnant women;
- Indigenous people;
- Women who are in the puerperium (45 days after delivery);
- Health workers;
- Prison system officials and people deprived of their liberty;
- People with chronic non-communicable diseases or special clinical conditions;
- Public and private network teachers;
- People aged 60 or over.
It is worth remembering that the vaccine does not provide lifelong protection. This is because each year new mutations and virus subtypes appear.
In some conditions, even having received the dose, it does not mean that you are fully protected, for example:
- If there has been no vaccination since last winter;
- If the person has been vaccinated, but the dose has not yet taken effect;
- If the vaccination was for a different form of the flu virus that is circulating.
If there is an outbreak of influenza in your home, where the virus can spread quickly, antiviral medication can be indicated, according to medical advice and as long as it is contact with someone with confirmed flu.
Side effects of the vaccine
The flu vaccine can cause symptoms such as pain in the spot, redness, fever, malaise, muscle pain or hypersensitivity reactions.
They are considered uncommon side effects, but when they manifest they should not remain for longer than 2 days. If these signs persist, seek medical attention.
How to prevent it?
In addition to being vaccinated every year, to prevent the flu, some general measures can be adopted. Simple hygiene habits can greatly reduce the transmission of the virus.
Hygiene and environmental care
These measures, in addition to reducing the risk of transmission of influenza, prevent other respiratory diseases. Are they:
- Wash your hands regularly with soap and water;
- When it is not possible to clean your hands with soap and water, use alcohol gel after touching someone and / or any object that may be contaminated;
- Keep surfaces clean, such as the keyboard, phone and door handles;
- Use tissues to cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze;
- Avoid placing your hands on your eyes, nose and mouth, especially when there is a risk of having touched a contaminated surface;
- For nasal hygiene, use disposable tissues;
- Do not share personal objects, such as glasses, cutlery, plates or bottles;
- Leave the rooms well ventilated;
- Avoid crowded and closed environments;
- If you have symptoms, avoid leaving the house;
- Avoid approaching people who have symptoms or who have been diagnosed;
- Maintain healthy habits, such as eating nutritious food and drinking plenty of fluids.
Chemoprophylaxis is a method that is based on the preventive use of antiviral drugs to protect the patient from the flu.
In the case of antivirals for influenza, oseltamivir and zanamivir, the effectiveness in prevention is 70% to 90%.
Usually, this form of prevention is used when the patient has been exposed to the disease. If the exposure interval is longer than 48 hours from contact with the infected person, chemoprophylaxis is not recommended.
It is an emergency preventive measure, so to speak, and is not indiscriminately recommended. The frequent use of chemoprophylaxis can provoke viral resistance in the patient.
It must be done when the patient has the following conditions:
- When you have a medical condition that puts you at risk;
- If you are in an environment or region where most people are infected;
- If you are 65 or older;
- If you have been in contact with someone with a flu-like illness and can start antiviral treatment within 48 hours;
- If you have not received the vaccine.
We answered some common questions regarding flu transmission and care. Check out:
How long will I be cured of the flu?
If you have the flu, you will usually begin to feel ill within a few days of infection. The peak of symptoms occurs after two or three days.
The time to full recovery from symptoms may vary for each patient, but it usually takes a week on average.
It may happen that the symptoms stay a little longer or go away sooner, if the treatment is done correctly.
I have the flu. How long can the risk of virus transmission remain?
Generally, you will be able to pass the flu on to others the day before symptoms start, and for another five or six days. Children and people with weaker immune systems, such as cancer patients , can remain infectious for longer.
Which people are most at risk of complication?
The elderly and anyone with certain long-term medical conditions (chronic illnesses) are more likely to have a severe flu case, and are also more likely to develop a serious complication, such as an infection in the airways.
What care can be taken in daycare centers?
In risky environments, such as day care centers, some care needs to be intensified due to the risks of agglomerations. Firstly, it is important to reinforce for parents the importance of vaccination for children in the age group at risk.
All preventive measures are valid for these cases. It is also recommended to clean toys more frequently.
To clean children’s secretions, caregivers should use disposable wipes.
They should also pay attention to the presence of any of the flu symptoms in children and inform parents, so that they seek treatment.
If the child has the flu, the ideal is that he / she stays at home, for at least 24 hours after the fever disappears, to avoid transmission to other children and professionals who work in the environment.
Why should I get vaccinated every year?
Over time, the immune system tends to decrease its response to the effects of the vaccine. Thus, for protection to happen efficiently, it is essential to reapply the dose every year.
In addition, the flu vaccine must be applied annually also because the virus is constantly changing, so the composition of the vaccine needs to be revised and updated to keep pace with these mutations.
Consequently, patients need to receive the updated vaccine to be protected against the circulating virus.
Does the vaccine work immediately?
No, vaccine protection is not immediate. It takes approximately 2 to 3 weeks for the body to start producing antibodies specific to the flu virus.
That is precisely why vaccination campaigns in Brazil take place during the months of April and May, as they precede the period when the transmission of the virus is greatest, usually during the winter months.
Influenza is a very recurrent seasonal disease, caused by the influenza virus. Despite being classified as a simple condition, it deserves the same care as other diseases considered serious.
In addition, the virus is capable of mutating, which leaves us with no immunity to fight it.
We seek in this article to show how it is possible to prevent influenza and to highlight the importance of vaccination, especially for groups at risk.
Also check out our articles on the H1N1 and H3N2 viruses . Thanks for reading and don’t forget to share!