Infuenza - The Flu
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.