Flu Symptoms & Complications | Call Doctors on Call | Your House Call Doctor

South Africa is in the midst of winter.  With colder weather conditions upon us, you need to help your body fight colds and flu.  Although you may not be able to completely prevent colds and flu at this time of year, by practising good hygiene and being careful to avoid cold germs, you may be able to considerably reduce your chances of being badly affected by the cold and flu season.

What is Influenza?

Influenza, commonly called “the flu,” is caused by viruses that infect the respiratory tract. Compared with most other respiratory infections, such as the common cold, the flu often causes a more severe illness.

What exactly are the Symptoms of Flu and how does Flu differ from a Cold?

Signs and SymptomsColdInfluenza (Flu)
Symptom onsetGradualAbrupt
FeverRareUsual; lasts 3-4 days
AchesSlightUsual; often severe
ChillsUncommonFairly common
Fatigue, weaknessSometimesUsual
Chest discomfort, coughMild to moderate; hacking coughCommon; can be severe
Stuffy noseCommonSometimes
Sore throatCommonSometimes

Causes of Flu

  • Flu viruses travel through the air in droplets when someone with the infection coughs, sneezes or talks.
  • You can inhale the droplets directly, or you can pick up the germs from an object — such as a telephone or computer keyboard — and then transfer them to your eyes, nose or mouth.
  • People with the virus are likely contagious from the day or so before symptoms first appear until about five days after symptoms begin.
  • Children and people with weakened immune systems may be contagious for a slightly longer time.
  • Influenza viruses are constantly changing, with new strains appearing regularly.
  • If you’ve had influenza in the past, your body has already made antibodies to fight that particular strain of the virus.
  • If future influenza viruses are similar to those you’ve encountered before, either by having the disease or by vaccination, those antibodies may prevent infection or lessen its severity.
  • But antibodies against flu viruses you’ve encountered in the past can’t protect you from new influenza subtypes that can be very different immunologically from what you had before.

Flu Complications

  • Most people who get flu will recover in a few days to less than two weeks, but some people will develop complications (such as pneumonia) as a result of flu, some of which can be life-threatening and even result in death.
  • Sinus and ear infections are examples of moderate complications from flu, while pneumonia is a serious flu complication that can result from either the influenza virus infection alone or from co-infection of the flu virus and bacteria.
  • Other possible serious complications triggered by flu can include inflammation of the heart (myocarditis), brain (encephalitis) or muscle tissues (myositis, rhabdomyolysis), and multi-organ failure (for example, respiratory and kidney failure).
  • The infection of the respiratory tract by the flu virus infection can trigger an extreme inflammatory response in the body that can lead to sepsis, the body’s life-threatening response to infection.
  • Flu also can make chronic medical problems worse. For example, people with asthmamay experience asthma attacks while they have flu, and people with chronic heart disease may experience a worsening of this condition triggered by flu.

People at High Risk from Flu

Anyone can get sick with flu (even healthy people), and serious problems related to flu can happen at any age, but some people are at a higher risk of developing serious flu-related complications if they get sick.

People at higher risk of developing flu complications include:

  • – Young children under the age of 5, and especially those under 2 years
  • – Adults older than 65 years
  • – Residents of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities
  • – Pregnant women and women up to two weeks postpartum
  • – People with weakened immune systems
  • – People who have chronic illnesses, such as asthma, heart disease, kidney disease, liver
    disease, and diabetes
  • – People who are very obese, with a body mass index (BMI) of 40 or higher

Controlling the spread of Infection

The influenza vaccine isn’t 100 percent effective, so it’s also important to take measures such as these to reduce the spread of infection:

  • Wash your hands.Thorough and frequent hand-washing is an effective way to prevent many common infections. Or use alcohol-based hand sanitizers if soap and water aren’t readily available.
  • Contain your coughs and sneezes.Cover your mouth and nose when you sneeze or cough. To avoid contaminating your hands, cough or sneeze into a tissue or into the inner crook of your elbow.
  • Avoid crowds.Flu spreads easily wherever people congregate — in child care centers, schools, office buildings, auditoriums and public transportation. By avoiding crowds during peak flu season, you reduce your chances of infection.
  • If you’re sick, stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever subsides so that you lessen your chance of infecting others. 

What are the Emergency Warning Signs of Flu?

People experiencing these warning signs should call a Doctor, such as Doctors-on-Call right away:

In Children

  • Fast breathing or trouble breathing
  • Bluish lips or face
  • Ribs pulling in with each breath
  • Chest pain
  • Severe muscle pain (child refuses to walk)
  • Dehydration (no urine for 8 hours, dry mouth, no tears when crying)
  • Not alert or interacting when awake
  • Seizures
  • Fever above 40°C
  • In children less than 12 weeks, any fever
  • Fever or cough that improves but then returns or worsens
  • Worsening of chronic medical conditions

In Adults

  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Persistent pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
  • Persistent dizziness, confusion, inability to arouse
  • Seizures
  • Not urinating
  • Severe muscle pain
  • Severe weakness or unsteadiness
  • Fever or cough that improves but then returns or worsens
  • Worsening of chronic medical conditions

Flu Diagnosis

Time is of the essence when diagnosing and treating flu.

Rapid influenza diagnostics that enable medical professionals to quickly determine if a patient has the flu and if so, which strain and whether it may be resistant to antiviral drugs can ensure that the patient receives the most appropriate care.

Flu Treatments

virus causes flu, so Antibiotics cannot help, unless the flu has led to another illness caused by bacteria.

Antivirals: A doctor may prescribe antivirals, such as oseltamivir (Tamiflu) and zanamivir (Relenza), in some circumstances.

Pain relief medication: Pain relievers can alleviate some of the symptoms, such as a headache and body pains. It is important to compare different products, and only take them under the advice of a medical professional.

Some painkillers, such as aspirin, are not suitable for children under 12 years of age.

Home remedies

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 neighbour that they have flu and make sure someone can check in on them.

When to see a Doctor such as Doctors-on-Call

In addition to the Emergency Warning Signs of Flu mentioned above, a Doctor needs to be consulted if people infected with flu:

  • are frail or older in age
  • their temperature remains high after 4–5 days
  • their symptoms worsen
  • they feel seriously ill

Doctors-on-Call is your house-call-doctor service 

They are able to advise & treat you if you are suffering from the flu

Doctors – on – Call operate in the Johannesburg area including Rosebank, Melrose Arch & Sandton, as well as in Cape Town

It is a good idea to have a ‘house call doctor’ like Doctors-on-Call’s number on hand, if you or anyone in your family are suffering from some of the more severe flu related symptoms

It is especially important to contact Doctors-on-Call if flu symptoms do not clear after a few days or take a turn for the worse

Calling Doctors-on-Call allows for the timeous and effective treatment of flu.  This is crucial to ensure the appropriate relief and precautionary measures are taken and the likelihood of serious complications is dramatically reduced.