Influenza, or ‘the flu’ is a  highly contagious respiratory illness, that’s caused a by a family of influenza viruses. You may have heard of bird flu, or swine flu, but there are three main types of flu with lots of subtypes.

Typically Influenza A and B types cause the majority of infections in Australia.

What are the symptoms?

Most people know what a cold feels like, and the flu can be similar but often more intense and prolonged.

People typically get some or all of the following symptoms:

  • Fever and chills
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Runny nose or stuffy nose
  • Muscle aches
  • Joint pains
  • Headaches
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea

For some people the symptoms can last longer than a week. People can get very mild versions of these symptoms, especially if they have been previously immunised or carry some immunity from a previous infection.

However it is important to seek medical attention if you’re quickly becoming worse, or any of the following symptoms occur:

  • Shortness of breath, or rapid breathing
  • Chest pain
  • Confusion or sudden dizziness
  • Persistent vomiting

How is it spread?

It is mainly spread by droplets from an infected person, that hang in the air after sneezing or coughing. It can also be spread when touching a surface where the droplets have landed.

That’s why it’s important to sneeze or cough into a tissue, throw it away, and wash your hands immediately and often.

What’s tricky is that people can be infectious even before they display any symptoms.

Adults are the most infectious during the first 3-5 days of illness, while children remain infectious for 7-10 days.

Who is at risk?

Everyone is theoretically at risk, there are some groups of people who are at particularly high risk of complications – these people are eligible for a free influenza vaccination;

  • All individuals aged 65 years and older
  • All Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander people aged 6months to 5 years, or aged 15 years and older
  • Pregnant women

Also people aged 6 months and over with certain medical conditions are eligible – these conditions include:

  • Cardiac disease, including cyanotic congenital heart disease, coronary artery disease and congestive heart failure
  • Chronic respiratory conditions, including suppurative lung disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and severe asthma
  • Other chronic illnesses requiring regular medical follow up or hospitalisation in the previous year, including diabetes mellitus, chronic metabolic diseases, chronic renal failure, and haemoglobinopathies
  • Chronic neurological conditions that impact on respiratory function, including multiple sclerosis, spinal cord injuries, and seizure disorders
  • Impaired immunity, including HIV, malignancy and chronic steroid use
  • Children aged 6 months to 10 years on long term aspirin therapy.

How is it prevented?

I’m glad you asked.

Influenza vaccination each year before winter begins is the best way to prevent influenza.

There are trivalent (three strain) and quadrivalent (four strain) versions of the vaccine available, and GS Health only stocks the quadrivalent vaccination for added protection levels. If you’d like to book in to get your flu vaccine – just select Flu Vaccine as the appointment type online or through the hotdoc app – or call our lovely reception staff.

Anyone aged 6 months or older is eligible, and since children are at higher risk of complications, and also are powerful transmitters, it’s good to make sure they are immunised.

Also simple measures can stop the transmission by remembering to:

  • Cover your face when you cough or sneeze and throw used tissues in a rubbish bin.
  • Wash your hands thoroughly and often. Wash hands for at least 10 seconds, especially after coughing, sneezing or blowing your nose, or use an alcohol-based hand rub.
  • Stay at home until you’re well. Wait at least 24 hours after your fever resolves so you that you are unlikely to infect other people. Keep sick children away from school and other activities.
  • Call ahead to see a doctor. If you think you may have influenza and you need to see a doctor, call first so the clinic can take precautions to reduce the risk to other people.

How is it treated?

Most influenza symptoms are managed with simple measures, such as ensuring enough rest (this is scientifically proven to boost your immune response), maintaining your fluids, and using simple analgesia to control your symptoms.

Nasal congestion and stuffiness responds quite well to nasal rinses, have a look at our page on triple nasal therapy.

For people who are at high risk of complications, or have rather severe symptoms early, there is specific medication that can reduce the severity and duration of symptoms.

However this must be started in the first 48 hours of symptoms. So if you’re worried you’re quite unwell – book in to see us as soon as possible.

Chronic Disease
Rhinitis Sinusitis Triple Nasal Therapy

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