Influenza, or flu, is a respiratory illness caused by a virus. Flu is highly contagious and is normally spread by the coughs and sneezes of an infected person.
Confusing flu with a bad cold is common. Flu and cold symptoms may both include a runny/blocked nose, sore throat, and cough.
To help you tell them apart, below are some symptoms of flu that are different from a heavy cold:
- High temperature
- Cold sweats and shivers
- Aching joints and limbs
- Fatigue, feeling exhausted
There may also be gastrointestinal symptoms, such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea; these are much more common among children than adults.
As flu is caused by a virus, antibiotics cannot help, unless the flu has led to another illness caused by bacteria. Antivirals, such as oseltamivir (Tamiflu) and zanamivir (Relenza), may be prescribed in some circumstances.
Painkillers may alleviate some of the symptoms, such as headache and body pains.
Some painkillers, such as aspirin, should not be given to children under 12.
Individuals with flu should:
- stay at home
- avoid contact with other people where possible
- keep warm and rest
- consume plenty of liquids
- avoid alcohol
- stop smoking
- eat if possible
It is a good idea for people that live alone to tell a relative, friend, or neighbor that they have flu and make sure someone can check in on them.