Influenza, commonly known as the flu, is a highly contagious respiratory illness that affects the nose, throat, and lungs. When an infected patient coughs or sneezes, the influenza virus is expelled through his mouth and nose. It travels through the air, spreading the infection from person to person, causing mild to severe cases of influenza symptoms.
The period between the infection and the start of the illness, termed as the incubation period, usually lasts for a couple of days. The patient is highly infectious during this period, as he keeps shedding the virus in respiratory droplets, which in turn can spread the disease.
Most patients contract a relatively mild form of the illness and recover in the span of a few days to around two weeks, but sometimes, the flu can turn fatal.
Influenza Symptoms - Five Key Ones To Look Out For
These are the five key influenza symptoms that you need to watch out for.
- The sudden onset of high fever (sometimes rising above 103 F or 39.4 °C) with chills
- Dry cough
- Sore throat
- Fatigue or tiredness
- A runny nose
- Body aches in the form of muscle and joint pain
Patients might also experience:
- Redness and a burning sensation in the eyes
- Vomiting and diarrhea (common in children)
Clarifying Influenza Symptoms – Is It Just A Cold Or The Flu?
People often confuse the flu with the common cold, but certain symptoms of the flu can help in differentiating this condition from the common cold. These are:
- Its sudden onset
- The presence of fever and chills
- Discomfort in the chest
- Body aches, which are often mild or absent in a person having a common cold
The Complications Of Influenza
Pneumonia, bronchitis, sinusitis, ear infections, and dehydration are some of the complications of an influenza infection.
The flu may even worsen existing medical conditions such as asthma, congestive heart failure, or diabetes.
Susceptibility To Influenza Symptoms
The following people are more susceptible to the infection and may experience mild or severe influenza symptoms.
- Children less than two years of age
- Adults aged 65 and above
- People with compromised immune systems, such as those who have chronic diseases related to the heart, lungs, kidneys, liver, blood, or the metabolism
Identifying Severe Influenza Symptoms
A person experiencing any of the following influenza symptoms must be rushed to the doctor immediately, as these signify that the condition is severe.
- Difficulty in breathing
- Chest pain
- Abdominal pressure
- Persistent vomiting
- A bluish tinge on the lips and skin
Influenza symptoms in infants include a lack of tears while crying, fewer wet diapers, and lesser food intake than usual.
Adults may experience a slight improvement in the condition and a subsequent return of the symptoms including fever and a cough characterized by a yellowish green mucus.
Some young children and teenagers may develop a condition called Reye’s syndrome after recovering from the flu. This condition begins with nausea and vomiting, and gradually affects the nerves, bringing about progressive mental changes such as confusion or delirium.
In people who harbor strong immunity to the influenza virus, influenza may present itself as a mild cold. But even in their case, the infection can turn fatal if the flu-causing virus belongs to a newly emergent strain to which they are not immune.
Consulting a doctor as soon as influenza symptoms appear is highly recommended. Otherwise, this seemingly mild disease has the potential to turn fatal.