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Influenza: Causes and Symptoms

Influenza refers to a viral infection that targets the upper respiratory system which includes the nose, throat and lungs. Also called the flu, it does not cause the same symptoms as stomach flu which usually gives rise to stomach upsets, vomiting and diarrhea.

The complications influenza can be potentially life threatening. People who are at greater risk of incurring major symptoms and complications include the following groups: sneezing

  • Young children
  • Pregnant women
  • Older adults
  • People suffering from chronic illnesses
  • People with suppressed immune systems

It is recommended that you get a yearly vaccination to reduce your risk of acquiring the disease.


It is important to know that flu and cold are different. The onset of flu is sudden and progresses into symptoms such as sneezing, runny nose and sore throat, whereas, a cold may develop gradually.

Some of the common signs and symptoms of flu include the following:

  • A fever of over 100 F (38 C)
  • Chills
  • Sweating
  • Muscles begin to ache—especially those in your arms, legs and back
  • Headaches
  • Dry coughs
  • Weakness and fatigue
  • Nasal congestion

When to seek medical attention

If you are suffering from the symptoms of flu and suspect that complications of flu may arise, consult your doctor for necessary treatments. Your doctor may prescribe antiviral drugs which you should take within 2 days after the onset of the symptoms. This will reduce the period of flu and also prevent the chances of severe complications and symptoms from taking place.


The most common cause of flu is through contact with the germs when an infected person coughs, talks or sneezes. Breathing in the air containing the droplets produced by these actions, may allow you to acquire these germs and get infected as well. Similarly you may catch an infection by touching infected objects such as keyboards, cell phones or telephones—by transferring them to your nose, eyes and mouth.

Influenza virus is producing new strains and is thus, changing constantly. However, if you have been infected with the virus before, you will produce the antibodies to combat the disease and infection. Therefore, if you get in contact with similar viruses as before, through the disease or vaccination, the antibodies present in your body may help combat the disease and prevent the chances of you acquiring the disease.

However, it is important to note that antibodies may not help you combat infection from new strains of influenza viruses as they will immunologically differ from the viruses you acquired before.

More Training

Prevention of disease transmission and management and recognition of fever’s are components covered in St Mark James first aid and CPR classes. Basic care for the influenza is not a major component of St Mark James programs.

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