by Contributing Writer
Influenza is not a disease to be taken lightly, as it is a serious, sometimes life-threatening ailment. While there is no cure for the flu, there are a number of ways its victims can treat the symptoms, lessen the misery and shorten the duration of the illness.
Influenza can be a serious illness.
Influenza is a viral infection that attacks the upper respiratory system. People suffering from vomiting and diarrhea often say they have the flu, but in reality they do not, as true influenza affects the nose, bronchial tubes and lungs, not the digestive system.
Influenza symptoms almost always include a high fever, head and muscle aches, dry cough, runny nose, sore throat and severe fatigue. Sub-symptoms may include nausea and vomiting, but only in conjunction with the primary symptoms. The flu usually hits fast and hard, as opposed to cold symptoms which develop more slowly.
Influenza complications can also cause death. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 36,000 people in the U.S. die from influenza every year. People with underlying health issues should call a doctor at the first signs of the flu, and family members should be aware that the very young and very old are at greater risk of serious complications.
Most often, however, influenza runs its course in a week.
Influenza symptoms typically come on fast and hard.
Treating influenza with an anti-viral drug in the first one or two days of onset can shorten the length of the illness. Tamiflu and Relenza are two well-known medications prescribed for the flu.
It's also important to remember to rehydrate yourself and rest. Drink plenty of fluids, such as water, juice or decaffeinated tea. A good rule of thumb to determine if you are getting enough fluids is to check the color of your urine---clear or very light yellow urine means you are sufficiently hydrated.
Rest is also a must. In fact, if you've ever experienced influenza you already know that you really don't have the energy to do much except rest. Even if you are feeling better after a few days, don't push it. Continue to rest to help your body build up strength, because if you don't you are at risk of prolonging the illness or making yourself even sicker.
Acetaminophen and ibuprofen can be used to treat aches and pains, but stay away from aspirin, as the CDC warns that giving aspirin to children to treat the flu can cause Reye's Syndrome.
Drinking lots of fluids is key to fighting the flu.
There is no cure for the flu, but there is a vaccine, and that's your best defense. Every year a new flu shot is developed to target the strain expected to emerge that flu season. Physicians, health clinics, even drug stores offer vaccine shots.
There are also nasal-spray versions of the vaccine.