You Can Ward Off Flu
Vaccinate yourself against influenza before it gets you!
Fever, body aches, a runny nose, cough and generalised weakness are all symptoms of flu, a very contagious viral-borne disease spread through cough droplets or close contact. For most of us, a flu episode is just a painful inconvenience, one that can be cured with rest and symptomatic medication for pain and fever. However, for others, it can be severe. The flu can be deadly for children below four years old, pregnant women, the elderly (65+ years) and those weakened by other illnesses such as chronic bronchitis, cancer, heart disease and diabetes. The continuing Covid-19 pandemic makes avoidance even more important.
Influenza is caused by the influenza virus. The virus tends to be seasonal, and circulates and causes disease in Sri Lanka, generally in the April-June and November-January periods. Influenza A, including the subtype H1N1, is the most common form in Sri Lanka, along with Influenza B. Both produce similar patterns of symptoms and are equally contagious. Each year, one subtype may be predominant.
What are the symptoms of flu?
Runny or stuffy nose
Occasionally vomiting and diarrhea
These symptoms appear four to seven days after exposure and last for about four to seven days, while fatigue can persist for two to three weeks.
What should I do if I have flu symptoms?
Get plenty of rest at home, eat normally, and make sure you drink enough water. Avoid contact with others and stay away from school or work for five to seven days. A person is contagious and can transmit the virus from the first day before the symptoms show, and up to five to seven days of having the virus. If the symptoms are severe, or if there is difficulty in breathing or you experience severe weakness, see your family doctor.
How is influenza treated?
In general, flu is treated with symptomatic medication for fever, pain and cold. However, the elderly, the immuno-compromised, and those suffering from severe attacks are treated with antiviral medication.
How can I protect myself against influenza?
Avoid contact with those with the illness. If you have influenza, prevent the spread by covering your mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing, and washing your hands frequently. A flu vaccination is your best protection. The vaccination has to be repeated every year because the virus mutates over time requiring further protection. This is especially important for those at high risk as mentioned above and those who are planning to become pregnant or who are already pregnant.
I am pregnant and do not want to get the flu
Pregnant women are more likely to develop a severe illness due to the flu. Changes in the immune system, the heart and lungs during pregnancy make them prone to complications. Flu during pregnancy can also cause serious problems for the developing baby, such as premature labour and delivery.
Early treatment is essential for pregnant women. If flu is suspected, treatment with antiviral medication must start immediately. Oseltamivir (Tamiflu) is safe to be given to pregnant women and should be started by their doctor within 48 hours of the illness. It limits the virus resulting in a milder flu, thus reducing chances of complications.
The flu vaccination is the best protection for pregnant women and those who are planning to become pregnant. It is safe to be given even during pregnancy and protects the mother and the baby from flu for several months after birth.
Ask our staff about the flu vaccine!
By Dr. Kayathri Periasamy, Consultant Physician MBBS (UK), MRCP (UK), Board Certified in Int. Medicine (USA). Founder of Healthy Life Clinic, Colombo 07.
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