The flu season in the different parts of the world brings a lot of disruption and misery. Millions of affected people experience influenza (flu) symptoms which are sometimes very uncomfortable. Inevitably, they ask themselves, “how long does influenza last?”
This article will address that issue of how long flu last. But there will be a brief discussion of other issues surrounding influenza, to enable the Reader to have a deeper understanding of the disease.
Specifically, this article will explore:
- what causes influenza
- how long does flu last?
- influenza treatment
- how long does influenza season last?
- influenza prevention
WHAT IS FLU? WHAT CAUSES INFLUENZA?
Flu is a respiratory illness. It is an infectious disease affecting the Respiratory Tract. Influenza is very contagious.
Is flu caused by a virus? Can flu be treated with antibiotics?
The disease is caused by a virus that exists in three types. The virus is influenza virus, types A, B and C.
Because viruses are not treated with antibiotics, flu cannot be treated with antibiotics. Antibiotics are effective only against bacteria.
Flu is transmitted by
- floating in the air in droplets, from an infected person. This happens when they cough, sneeze, talk or sing. The virus can then enter the airways of another person who breathes it in.
- surviving on surfaces like door knobs, furniture, shared equipment. It gets picked up by an unsuspecting victim who touches the surface. The virus then enters the body of the victim when they touch their nose, eyes or ears with unclean hands
- kissing (this is similar to the touch mode above, though more direct)
HOW LONG DOES A TYPICAL FLU LAST?
After being infected with flu as described in the first paragraph, symptoms develop after 1 to 4 days. Notably, a victim can be infectious one day before showing symptoms.
Then the flu symptoms worsen fairly rapidly over the next few days. The symptoms reach a peak after about 4-5 days.
Overall, a typical flu usually lasts a total of 5-7 days. During this time, the subject remains highly contagious.
A different pattern has been noted with the H1N1 virus. It tends to run a protracted course of (up to 3) weeks.
The treatment of flu is supportive. The aim is to relieve distressing symptoms and to prevent harm that can be caused by abnormal parameters.
Cough (and congestion) – can be controlled by an antihistamine
Fever – can be managed with paracetamol or a Nonsteroidal Anti-inflammatory Drug (NSAID)
Pain – can be treated with paracetamol or a Nonsteroidal Anti-inflammatory Drug (NSAID)
Congestion and secretions – can be reduced by decongestants
Immunity can be boosted by high-dose Vitamin C
Lethargy – usually improved through the use of caffeine
The above drugs are often used together in combination medicines, tablets or capsules.
Hydration needs to be carefully observed, as water loss results from fever, rapid breathing and poor oral intake due to appetite loss.
H1N1 flu treatment is the one that has a specific antiviral to use. The antiviral, oseltamivir, is sold under the tradename “Tamiflu”.
HOW LONG DOES FLU SEASON LAST?
Due to a variety of reasons, influenza virus is most rampant in Winter. Flu season therefore equates to Winter months.
In the Northern hemisphere, the flu season is approximately from October to May. And in the Southern hemisphere, it is approximately from May through August, to October.
INFLUENZA / FLU PREVENTION
There are several ways to prevent influenza / flu. These centre around good hygiene. More info on this can be found in the article, “Flu Season Prevention Tips” on this website.
There is a frequent question, “how long does flu shot last?”
The influenza (flu) shot is dealt with in detail in the above article. It just needs to be mentioned that the annual flu vaccine is only valid for the year in question. This is because different strains of the flu virus predominate in different years.
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