The Beginning: Symptom Onset
The timeline between exposure, infection and the first signs of flu symptoms is typically about two days, but can range from one to four days.
When you start to feel sick, it seems sudden. And if youre like many people, the first symptoms you notice may be fever or chills, which are followed quickly by headache, muscle aches, cough and/or extreme tiredness.
How Long Does The Flu Last
The duration of the flu varies from person to person and depends on a variety of health factors. In general, the flu lasts approximately one to two weeks. Symptoms come on suddenly and then gradually improve over two to five days, but less severe effects such as fatigue and coughing may last longer.
What Is Antibiotic Resistance
Antibiotic resistance refers to the ability of some germs to survive the drugs we take to kill them. This can happen as a result of overuse, described above, or misuse, as when a patient with strep throat misses doses of their antibiotics or stops taking their pills once they feel better. Instead of being killed, the strep bacteria are, in the words of one scientist, educated in how to fight the drug. Then, if those germs are passed to someone else, the same antibiotic will be less effective.
Superbugs are germs that are resistant to many antibiotics. The best-known superbug is MRSA , a drug-resistant form of staph. Other superbugs cause hard-to-treat forms of pneumonia, tuberculosis, gonorrhea and UTIs. Every year, 2 million Americans fall ill with antibiotic-resistant infections.
Superbugs take more time and money to treat. Today, a simple sore throat or UTI might inconvenience you for a week, until your inexpensive generic antibiotics kick in. In the future, that week could turn into a month and multiple rounds of pricey specialized antibiotics.
Thats not all. Antibiotics are the unsung hero that support many medical breakthroughs, Dr. Knecht says. Theres a whole slew of technologies we wouldnt be able to use if antibiotics stopped working: surgery, dialysis, chemotherapy, gene therapy, bone marrow transplants. All of these treatments would be too dangerous without effective ways to head off and treat infection.
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Use Of Antiviral Medications To Treat Influenza
Outbreaks of influenza occur every year and typically reach epidemic levels at some part of the season. Usually, uncomplicated influenza gets better with or without antiviral treatment but may cause substantial discomfort and limit activities while it lasts.
Many people with uncomplicated influenza use over-the-counter medicines, get rest, and take plenty of fluids to lessen their symptoms. Antiviral drugs available by prescription can reduce the time it takes for symptoms to improve, and some are also used in selected situations to reduce the chance of illness in people exposed to influenza virus. Prompt medical evaluation is important for early treatment of influenza as the antiviral drugs may provide the most benefit for patients who initiate therapy within 48 hours of symptom onset.
Symptoms of influenza may mimic other infections which require different treatment . It is important to be evaluated by a healthcare provider, if symptoms are severe or worsening or if there is an underlying chronic medical condition. Laboratory tests can help detect influenza virus. However, a negative test does not always rule out the possibility of an influenza virus infection, and positive tests do not exclude the possibility of other illnesses or take the place of clinical evaluation.
Can Colds And The Flu Be Cured With Medications
No medicines can “cure” colds and flu. However, there are many over-the-counter medicines that can ease the discomfort caused by the symptoms of colds and flu. In addition, there are prescription medicines and a vaccine that can treat and prevent the flu.
Note on antibiotics: Colds and the flu are causes by viruses and cannot be cured with antibiotics. Antibiotics are used to treat bacterial infections, such as strep throat and ear, skin and urinary tract infections. Using antibiotics for infections they are not able to treat makes the antibiotics less effective for infections they are supposed to treat . Never take antibiotics to treat colds and flu.
To ease the discomfort from specific cold and flu symptoms, consider using the following types of OTC medicines:
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Do You Have A Cold Or The Flu
You feel a tickle in your throat, and then a headache coming on. You start to sniffle or sneeze, and suddenly you feel really tired. You know youre coming down with something but is it a cold, or do you have the flu?
With both conditions your symptoms can include a sore throat, runny nose, headache, body aches, chills, fatigue, nausea, vomiting and sometimes diarrhea, says Dr. Denise Campbell-Scherer, an associate professor in the department of family medicine at the University of Alberta. The main difference is that with the flu, youll have a temperature above 37.8°C. Flu symptoms also tend to come on suddenly, are more severe and are at their worst for the first three or four days after that, it can take up to two weeks before you feel better. A cold can linger anywhere from a few days to a few weeks, although one week is typical.
Who Should Take Antiviral Drugs
Its very important that flu antiviral drugs are started as soon as possible to treat patients who are hospitalized with flu, people who are very sick with flu but who do not need to be hospitalized, and people who are at higher risk of serious flu complications based on their age or health, if they develop flu symptoms. Although other people with mild illness who are not at higher risk of flu complications may also be treated early with antiviral drugs by their doctor, most people who are otherwise healthy and not at higher risk for flu complications do not need to be treated with antiviral drugs.
Following is a list of all the health and age factors that are known to increase a persons risk of getting serious complications from flu:
- Blood disorders
- Chronic lung disease
- Endocrine disorders
- Heart disease
- Kidney disorders
- Metabolic disorders
- People who are obese with a body mass index of 40 or higher
- People younger than 19 years of age on long-term aspirin- or salicylate-containing medications.
- People with a weakened immune system due to disease or medications
Other people at higher risk from flu:
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Combination Cough And Cold Medicines
Cough and cold medicines are often used for symptom relief however its important to know there is not enough evidence showing they work well, particularly in children.
Cough and cold medicines should not be given to children under 6. You should ask a doctor, pharmacist or nurse practitioner for advice before giving cough and cold medicines to children aged 6 to 11 years.
Cough and cold medicines often contain paracetamol, so it is important to check the label to avoid doubling up and taking other medicines that also contain paracetamol.
What Treatment Options Are Safe During Pregnancy
According to the Cleveland Clinic, natural remedies like saline nasal drops and warm salt-water gargling are ideal cold and flu treatments during pregnancy.
Women who are pregnant or trying to get pregnant should check with their healthcare provider before taking any drug. While no medication can be considered 100 percent safe for pregnant women, the Cleveland Clinic lists the following as among those generally considered to be okay:
Note: Do not take the sustained action or multisymptom forms of these drugs.
As for the decongestant pseudoephedrine, the Cleveland Clinic recommends that pregnant women avoid it in the first trimester , while a review published in the journal American Family Physician concluded that women should use it only sparingly later in pregnancy.
For pregnant women with the flu, oseltamivir is the preferred medication because it has the best safety and efficacy record, according to the CDC.
The CDC recommends that pregnant women with a fever take acetominophen and contact their doctors immediately.
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Fda Approved Drugs For Influenza
There are four FDA-approved influenza antiviral drugs recommended by CDC for use against recently circulating influenza viruses.
Two older drugs, amantadine and rimantadine historically have been approved for treatment and prevention of influenza A virus infection. But many strains of influenza virus, including the 2009 H1N1 influenza virus, are now resistant to these drugs. CDC has not recommended the use of amantadine and rimantadine for recently circulating influenza viruses, although recommendations could change if there were future re-emergence of specific virus strains with susceptibility patterns favoring such use.
Concerned What Youre Feeling May Be Covid
Both COVID-19 and the seasonal flu are highly contagious respiratory illnesses, which means they share some similar symptoms like high-grade fever, chills, cough, headache and more.
But there are some distinct differences, including how quickly symptoms set in, and cough type and severity. Also, there are some symptoms that are far more consistent with COVID-19 like shortness of breath or new loss of taste or smell.
If you want to know more, check out our post on . If you think you are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, you can schedule a video visit to talk with a doctor about your symptoms and if you should .
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Learn How To Distinguish Covid
As COVID-19 remains prevalent in the U.S. and our community, many people have questions about the differences between the cold, the flu and the coronavirus how to know which of these viruses you have and when to seek medical attention. Although the cold, the flu and COVID-19 viruses have many similarities, there are also some important differences you need to know. Keep reading for more information.
Preventing The Spread Of Colds
Wash your hands often. This is the best way to stop the spread of germs.
To wash your hands correctly:
- Rub soap onto wet hands for 20 seconds. Make sure to get under your fingernails. Dry your hands with a clean paper towel and turn faucet off with paper towel.
- You can also use alcohol-based hand sanitizers. Use a dime size amount and rub all over your hands until they are dry.
To further prevent colds:
- Stay home when you are sick.
- Cough or sneeze into a tissue or into the crook of your elbow and not into the air.
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When To Call The Doctor
Try treating your cold at home first. Call your provider right away, or go to the emergency room, if you have:
- Difficulty breathing
- Sudden chest pain or abdominal pain
- Sudden dizziness
- Severe vomiting that does not go away
Also call your provider if:
- You start acting strangely
- Your symptoms get worse or do not improve after 7 to 10 days
Know When To Get Emergency Care For Serious Flu Symptoms
Most likely, Steps 1-5 will be all you need to get over the flu. But influenza is a serious illness, so its important to watch for more serious symptoms.
Go to the emergency room if you, your child or another loved one is experiencing any of the following symptoms:
- Difficulty breathing
- Sudden dizziness
- Confusion or worse-than-normal mental function
- Severe or persistent vomiting
- Loss of appetite or refusal to eat or drink
Children especially infants and toddlers can experience other unique symptoms that can indicate something more serious is going on. Go to the nearest emergency room if your child:
- Is less than 3 months old and has a fever of above 100.4°F
- Is between 3 months old and 3 years old, has a fever of above 100.4°F, and is showing signs of dehydration
- Has a fever with a rash
- Has skin or lips that have turned gray or blue
- Is extremely irritable
- Not waking up or interacting with you
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Dr Fauci Says Do Not Take A Drug That Supresses An Immunological Response
As for taking medicines after the vaccine, Fauci says “the mixed advice is based on the fact that there’s very little data on that. I mean, if you’re going to take something that suppresses an immunological response, then obviously you don’t want to take something like that, except if you’re taking it for an underlying disease.” Immunosuppressants are “medications that suppress the body’s immune system,” according to Johns Hopkins. “These are usually taken after an organ transplant to prevent the body from ‘rejecting’ the transplanted organ.” Keep reading to see what he thinks you can take.
Who Should Get An Annual Flu Shot
The Centers for Disease Control recommends the following groups receive an annual flu vaccine shot between November and February :
- All people aged six months and older.
It is especially important for certain individuals at high risk of flu complications and those who come in contact with people at high risk of complications to receive the flu vaccine. These people at high risk include:
- Residents of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities.
- People who have chronic medical conditions such as asthma, heart disease, diabetes, kidney and liver disorders and chronic lung diseases.
- People with a weakened immune system, for example, people with cancer, HIV/AIDS, or chronic steroid users.
- Household members and caregivers of patients at risk of complications from the flu.
- Women who are or will be pregnant during the flu season .
- Healthcare workers who come into close contact with patients in hospitals, nursing homes, long-term care facilities, and other healthcare facilities.
- Infants and children ages six months through 18 years who are taking long-term aspirin therapy. This puts these individuals at risk for experiencing Reye syndrome after flu infection.
- American Indians/Alaska natives.
- People who have close contact with children under five years of age for example, people who live with children, nannies and providers of daycare services.
- People who are morbidly obese .
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Which Treatment Should I Use For Nasal Congestion
If you need immediate relief for swollen, congested nasal passages, you may get relief with an over-the-counter decongestant nasal spray. It is important to stop using decongestant nasal sprays after three days to avoid the development of rebound congestion.
Some doctors suggest using a saline spray instead of a medicated spray. Saline sprays loosen thick mucus in the nasal passageways but have no rebound effect. They may be used for extended periods of time without significant side effects.
What Is The Best Medicine For The Flu
The best flu medicine would be to rest and get plenty of fluids. Most symptoms of flu such as a fever, a runny nose, and blocked sinuses can be managed by acetaminophen and antihistamine medications. However, if the patient has a severe infection or is at a higher risk of complications, the physician may prescribe the following antivirals:
Antiviral drugs can shorten the patients illness by about a day. They also prevent severe complications of flu such as pneumonia. However, these have a higher incidence of side effects than other antibiotics. Therefore, take them only if really required.
Antiviral drugs should be started within 2 days of getting sick to be effective.
Benefits of taking antiviral drugs include:
- Antiviral drugs shorten the time of being sick by about 1 day if a patient takes them within 2 days.
- They reduce the risk of ear infection, respiratory complications, and hospitalization.
- They reduce the risk of severe flu complications such as pneumonia.
- Early antiviral treatment can reduce the risk of death in a patient who is hospitalized.
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Is An Antiviral Drug A Commonly Used Flu Treatment
Antiviral flu drugs are taken to decrease the severity and duration of flu symptoms. In some cases they may be used to prevent flu. They includeÃ baloxavir marboxil ,Ã oseltamivir , peramivir , or zanamivir .
Ideally, the first dose should be taken within 48 hours of the onset of symptoms. Talk to your doctor, if you are at increased risk for complications from the flu. People at high risk include infants, elderly, those with chronic illnesses, pregnant women, those with weak immune systems. Native American and Alaskan Natives. Most antivirals do have side effects.
What Are The Possible Side Effects Of Antiviral Drugs
Side effects vary for each medication. The most common side effects for oseltamivir are nausea and vomiting. Zanamivir can cause bronchospasm, and peramivir can cause diarrhea. Other less common side effects also have been reported. Your health care provider can give you more information about these drugs or you can check the Food and Drug Administration websiteexternal icon for specific information about antiviral drugs, including the manufacturers package insert.
Parents, if your child gets sick with flu, antiviral drugs offer a safe and effective treatment option. For treatment, influenza antiviral drugs should ideally be started within 2 days after becoming sick and taken according to your doctors instructions .
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What Should I Do If I Think I Am Sick With Flu
If you get sick with flu, antiviral drugs are a treatment option. Check with your doctor promptly if you are at higher risk of serious flu complications and you develop flu symptoms. Flu signs and symptoms can include feeling feverish or having a fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills, and fatigue. Your doctor may prescribe antiviral drugs to treat your flu illness.