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What Are the Early Symptoms of the Flu?

Influenza is a viral respiratory infection that produces annual outbreaks among people of all ages. Since flu strains are constantly mutating, your body’s immunity to it is relatively low. By learning to spot and treat early flu symptoms, you can help stop it in its tracks.

Influenza is a viral infection that primarily affects your lungs, nose, and throat. Though you can catch it at any time, outbreaks typically occur during the fall and winter months. Elderly flu patients have a greater chance of developing major complications.

Since the virus changes every year, it’s a good idea to get an annual vaccination, among other things, to remain protected.

While the common cold creates flu-like symptoms, influenza is usually accompanied by more severe symptoms. Slow-developing signs of a cold include:

  • Nasal congestion
  • Green or yellow-tinged nasal discharge
  • Fever of up to 102 degrees Fahrenheit or 38.8 degrees Celsius 
  • Sore throat
  • Watery eyes
  • Coughing
  • Sneezing
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Muscle aches

In contrast, early flu symptoms are more intense, develop rapidly, and may include:

  • Fever above 102 degrees Fahrenheit or 38.8 degrees Celsius
  • Loss of appetite
  • Intense fatigue
  • Muscle aches or myalgia, particularly in your arms, legs, and back
  • Headaches

Subsequent symptoms of the influenza virus include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting and diarrhea (particularly in children)
  • Chills and sweats
  • Possible nasal congestion, with or without sneezing
  • Non-productive coughing that progressively worsens 
  • Tachycardia or rapid heartbeat (if you’re dehydrated or feverish)

The incubation period for the virus ranges anywhere from 1 to 4 days. Patients could become contagious the day before symptoms even appear, and for up to 5 to 7 days after.

Sometimes, women experience flu-like symptoms before their period, such as fatigue or headaches. Despite the fact that some refer to it as “period flu,” it’s not a real case of influenza.

According to medical research, the best way to avoid getting sick is with an annual vaccination. Since the flu virus is constantly changing, past immunity won’t necessarily keep you protected in the future. Researchers try to predict which strains will cause an outbreak each year, and the vaccine gets updated accordingly.

There are two different types of vaccines available: the flu shot and a nasal spray. Flu shots contain dead, inactive viruses which won’t actually develop into the flu. It’s considered safe for anyone over the age of 6 months, including pregnant women. Nasal sprays, on the other hand, contain live, weakened viruses, and isn’t recommended for pregnant women or immunosuppressed individuals.

Next, Flo shares eight handy tips for battling and preventing the spread of influenza.

Avoid coming into close contact with anyone who has the flu, or with objects and surfaces they may have recently touched.

Be considerate when sneezing or coughing, and stay away from others. Either use a tissue, or sneeze or cough into your elbow or upper sleeve instead of your hand.

If at all possible, stay at home if you get the flu. Call in sick to work or school and opt out of running the usual errands.

Wash your hands before preparing and eating food, as well as after sneezing, coughing, or blowing your nose. Lather your hands with soap and scrub for at least 20 seconds before rinsing. If you don’t have access to soap and water, use a hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol.

Thoroughly disinfect surfaces that are frequently touched, such as your dining table, desk, kitchen counter, and door knobs.

Inadvertently touching a contaminated surface and then touching your eyes, nose, or mouth could lead to a case of influenza.

Lack of sleep and chronic stress both reduce your immune system’s ability to effectively fight off infections like the flu virus.

Do your best to keep your desk and common areas at work clean. Also, consider inquiring at your school (or your child’s school) about their action plan for possible flu outbreaks. 

Generally speaking, influenza is a condition which resolves itself in approximately 3 to 7 days. But it’s important to recognize when it’s time to go to the hospital with flu symptoms. Timely medical attention could make a big difference in severe cases, especially if you notice:

  • A high, long-lasting fever above 102 degrees Fahrenheit or 38.8 degrees Celsius
  • Worsening symptoms that last more than 10 days 
  • Chest pain or discomfort 
  • Confusion
  • Severe sinus pain
  • Severe vomiting
  • Rapid or labored breathing 
  • Swollen lymph nodes in your neck
  • Loss of consciousness

Patients who have a greater chance of developing flu complications include:

  • Children under 12 months old and adults of 65 or older.
  • Pregnant women or those who have given birth in the past two weeks.
  • Individuals with chronic health conditions or a weakened immune system.
  • Kids younger than 19 years of age who receive long-term treatment with aspirin.
  • Individuals with a body mass index (BMI) of 40 or higher.
  • Hospital patients and long-term care facility residents.

Influenza has the potential to aggravate chronic health issues, leading to pneumonia, sinus infections, bronchitis, sepsis, or even death.

Getting vaccinated every year is the best way to tackle the flu. It may help prevent the disease, or at least shorten its duration and the severity of its symptoms.

Be sure to take the preventive measures listed above, and teach yourself to spot early flu symptoms so you can nip the problem in the bud.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK279459/

https://www.elsevier.com/__data/assets/pdf_file/0011/609329/Influenza_CO_complete.pdf

https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/medicine-and-dentistry/influenza

https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/medicine-and-dentistry/revaccination

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