Infuenza - The Flu

General Information

Influenza (flu) is a viral infection that occurs worldwide. It is primarily an infection of the lungs, nose, and throat. Each year the virus that causes this infection changes slightly, and it may change enough to allow even those people who have had a previous infection and who are immune to the earlier virus to become infected again. Infections may occur any time of the year, but they are most common in the fall and winter.

Although influenza infection does not respect any age group, the effects of the infection are more severe in elderly patients. The gradual process of aging affects the lungs and makes it easier for simple flu infections to become complicated by the development of pneumonia.

It is better to prevent influenza than to treat it. Excellent vaccines are available for the prevention of this infection. Because the virus changes yearly, annual revaccination with the current strain of influenza virus is important to keep up one’s level of protection.

Important Points in Treatment
Older patients with influenza should see a physician. It is often difficult at the beginning of illness to tell a common cold from influenza infection. They share many common upper respiratory tract symptoms, such as runny nose, congestion, and sore throat. Infections that cause fever, chills, muscle aches and pains, and cough are suspect for being influenza. If these signs and symptoms develop or if symptoms persist for more than 3 days, it is wise to consult your physician. If influenza is diagnosed early enough, it is possible to treat it with an antiviral drug that can shorten the period of illness.

Patients with uncomplicated influenza are most often treated at home. Bedrest is important to preserve one’s full strength to oppose the infection. Your physician can recommend the best medication to lower the fever. (Remember, many medications interact in dangerous ways.) It is important to drink extra amounts of fluid. Fever can cause extra loss of fluid, and enough is needed to keep your kidneys working and healthy. Your physician will advise you about the best preparation for treatment of the cough.

As the infection and its symptoms subside, there should be a gradual return to usual activities. Full recovery may take several weeks. Early resumption of full activity may cause a relapse.

Notify Our Office If

  • You have a sudden rise in temperature.
  • You have a sudden worsening in breathing, with rapid breaths.
  • You stop urinating.
  • You have confusion or difficulty walking.

Flu Vaccine

General Information
Influenza is an annually occurring viral epidemic in the United States and around the world. Most (90%) of the influenza-related deaths occur in the elderly. The primary tool for reducing this death toll is the use of immunization against this virus.

Because the virus changes slightly from year to year, new forms of the virus occur. This means that last year’s immunization may not be effective against this year’s viruses. Annual immunization is required for it to be effective.

Important Points in Treatment
The annual outbreaks of influenza usually begin in December of each year. The vaccine will require about 2 weeks to become effective. The best time for immunization is in October or November. Protection provided by the vaccine will last about 4 to 6 months. The influenza season in this country ends in March, so one properly timed immunization is usually effective. It requires only a single dose of vaccine.

The site of immunization may be sore for a day or two after the inoculation. A few patients may have some muscle ache, fever, and tiredness but this lasts only a day or two.

The vaccine is made in eggs. Patients who are allergic to eggs or egg products should not take this vaccine.

Call Our Office If

  • You would like to have an immunization against influenza.
  • If you seem to have any kind of reaction after immunization.