Flu is a common respiratory infection caused by influenza virus. The flu virus attacks mostly during the winter and spring season. It is a highly contagious disease. When an infected person coughs or sneezes, droplets of sputum are released in air which if inhaled by a healthy individual can cause infection. Individuals with the weaker immune system are easily susceptible to develop flu. Flu outbreaks can cause serious illness and can spread easily in the surrounding areas.
Signs and symptoms
Most of the flu symptoms are similar to a common cold. When you are suffering from flu infection, you may start having the following symptoms:
- Severe body aches
- Runny nose
- Sore throat
- Nasal congestion
- Muscle and joint pains
- Extreme fatigue
- Watering of eyes
Diagnosis of flu
Proper and accurate diagnosis is necessary to control flu infection. The doctor would recommend certain tests to confirm the diagnosis of flu.
Presence of infections can be indicated by a routine blood test. Increase in the white blood cells count indicates infection.
Rapid flu tests
These rapid flu tests can detect influenza virus in a throat swab and provide results within less than 20 mins. However, the test results are not highly sensitive and accurate as other flu tests.
Antigen detection test
Rapid influenza antigen test helps in the detection of viral antigens in your nasal secretions. However, the test results are not accurate and can detect only 50-70% of flu cases. A negative rapid antigen test can be followed by a molecular test or viral culture.
Molecular test (RT-PCR)
Reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction and certain molecular tests can detect viral genetic material (RNA) in your sputum or throat swab respiratory samples. This test is more specific and accurate than rapid antigen detection tests.
A viral culture is an expensive test, and requires 3-10 days to obtain the test results. Your sputum sample or throat swab is cultured to identify the specific strain of influenza virus that is causing the infection. Viral cultures are less helpful in providing specific treatment options for flu.
How to treat flu?
- Humidify: Taking a steamy shower and breathing moist air can clear the nasal congestion. Inhaling steam eases the symptoms of flu.
- Vitamin C: Foods rich in vitamin C like limes, oranges and certain fruits and vegetables help to boost your immune system and help in relieving respiratory tract infections.
- Menthol: The smell of menthol helps to clear the nasal passages.
- Decongestant/salt water sprays: Salt water sprays help loosen the nasal secretions, while decongestant sprays enable faster relief for a stuffy and blocked nose.
- Probiotics: Probiotics strengthen your immune system and reduces your risk of getting an upper respiratory tract infection.
- Vapor rub: The smell of a vapor rub reduces congestion and clears the air passages. Application of a vapor rub during night time improves your sleep.
- Echinacea: Echinacea is a herb that has effective anti-inflammatory properties. It helps in reducing the bronchial symptoms.
Medications – Your doctor may recommend various combinations of antihistamines, decongestants, cough suppressants and analgesics to treat the symptoms of flu. Over-the-counter pain relievers can also relieve the symptoms associated with flu.
Oral and nasal decongestant spray help in reducing the swelling in the nasal passageways. Using saline sprays in the nasal passageways can loosen the thick mucus. Antihistamines are helpful in relieving your flu symptoms such as itching, sneezing, and nasal discharge. Antiviral drugs help in treating serious flu complications.
- Good hygiene: Make a habit to wash your hands regularly, this helps you to protect yourself from germs. An alcohol-based hand sanitizer kills the flu germs on your hands.
- Avoid close contact: Avoid direct contact with the people who are sick. Do not shake hands and avoiding sharing towels, eating and drinking utensils with the people who are affected with the flu
- Keep your surroundings clean: Maintain cleanliness in your surroundings to get rid of germs. Clean the surfaces of your workplace and door handles regularly.
- Stay indoors while you are sick: Avoid stepping outdoors when you are sick to prevent the spreading of infection to others.
- The flu vaccine: Getting a flu vaccine annually helps in reducing the risk of acquiring flu.
Why choose Apollo Diagnostics?
We have the expertise of 34 + years in healthcare. Our labs are equipped with EQUAS (External Quality Assurance System) and loaded with full automated machines to ensure error free reports, with a quick turnaround time, and at an affordable price. For your convenience, we offer free home collection of samples.
For appointments, please call 4444 2424.
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- Influenza tests. https://labtestsonline.org/understanding/analytes/flu/tab/test/ . Accessed on 18-10-2017
- Preventing the flu: good health habits can help stop germs. https://www.cdc.gov/flu/protect/habits.htm . Accessed on 18-10-2017
- Self-management. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/flu/manage/ptc-20248168 . Accessed on 18-10-2017
- Flu treatment. https://www.webmd.com/cold-and-flu/flu-guide/flu-treatment#1 . Accessed on 18-10-2017