by Todd Spector, M.D.
What is the Flu?
Influenza is a virus that is most commonly seen in the late fall and winter months, October to May. The virus is spread through respiratory secretions and is spread easily during winter months when people spend more time together indoors. There are three main strains of Influenza which are Influenza A, B, C as well as many subtypes. Types A&B are the ones that cause typical flu symptoms, whereas type C is likely to resemble a common cold. Influenza affects everyone from infancy to old age.
How do I know if I have the flu and not another viral syndrome?
Typically the flu starts with sudden onset of high fever 100 to 104f (38.1-40.0c) and cough. Muscle aches, headache, muscle cramps, sore throat, and occasionally nausea and vomiting will start soon after. In children, vomiting and diarrhea are much more common. In infants, Influenza can cause difficulty breathing and wheezing. Usually other viral syndromes or “colds” are not associated with fevers and muscle aches. Typical “cold” symptoms are runny nose, cough, sore throat and sneezing.
What should I do if I think I have the flu or if someone in my family has it?
If you have abrupt onset of temperature 100 to 104f (38.1-40.0c) with cough and muscle aches we would like to see you within 48 hours of the onset of symptoms if you’re not feeling improved. The reason we would like to see you is that we can do office testing for Influenza and give medication to shorten the duration and severity of the illness. If the symptoms are present for longer than 48 hours the medications are no longer effective.
What treatments are available for the flu?
Usually, the flu will resolve spontaneously after about 7 days. It is normal to have fatigue and malaise for 2-3 weeks following the onset of symptoms. Many people will not realize they have the flu and will do fine with symptomatic therapy of muscle aches, fevers, and headaches using over the counter flu remedies.