Flu Season


The nights are slowly getting longer, the mornings are becoming chillier and darker, which means winter is around the corner. We all know the pain of the ailments that winter brings with it, mainly upper respiratory tract infections in the form of influenza or flu as commonly known. It’s worth noting however that most people confuse a common cold for Influenza, and I shall explain what the differences are.

Influenza (flu) is a highly contagious viral infection of the respiratory tract that can cause severe illness and life-threatening complications (including pneumonia). It can affect people of all ages. It is a seasonal infection and common occurs during the winter months from April up until September.

The presentation of influenza can be varying; however, the most common presentation is an abrupt onset of fever associated with a dry cough. Other symptoms include severe body pains, feeing extremely weak, chills, sore throat, runny nose and aching behind the eyes. The diagnosis can be confirmed by doing a throat swab and picking up the specific viruses that cause influenza.

Patients with severe symptoms particularly the elderly and those with comorbidities may require hospital admission. This is usually for supportive treatment, supplemental oxygen if needed and antiviral therapy. The antivirals against influenza are usually very effective if given early in the course of the disease within 24 to 48 hours of onset of symptoms. The majority of the patients do recover within 3 days.

The common cold on the other hand is caused by different type of virus, such as rhinovirus and parainfluenza. It is much milder than influenza and its symptoms are often more gradual. Fever and chills are rare in patients who present with common cold. They commonly have sneezing, stuffy nose and sore throat. Adults don’t generally need medical attention for a common cold and the symptoms usually resolve on their own, one should seek medical attention if the symptoms persist, if there is high fever, if there is shortness of breath or noisy breathing.

The most effective way of preventing influenza is by getting a flu vaccine which has been shown to be very effective. This vaccine should be taken yearly just before the winter season begins. The vaccine is recommended for all persons older than six months. It is highly recommended in those at risk for severe complications of flu, which are children less than 2 years and adults about 50 years of age.

The flu vaccine has been shown to be very safe and has been administered to millions of people with no major side effects. They may be minor side effects which include sore or redness at injection site, headache, fever and, muscle aches. This side effects are usually not long lasting.


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