Influenza - Treat early on

Influenza is a sudden infection in the upper respiratory tract caused by influenza viruses (type A and B), which occurs every winter. Influenza can cause a long illness and sequelae even with healthy adults. Special risk groups are small children, elderlies as well as people with chronic diseases. Influenza occurs each winter on 5 to 15% of the population.

-Influenza virus can be reliably found with a quick test taken from the nasopharyngeal. The doctor can find out the cause of the disease and choose the right treatment as quick as half an hour after taking the test, tells Mehiläinen's laboratory manager Kristina Hotakainen.

Symptoms of the influenza

Typical symptoms of the influenza are a sudden high fever, a fever without rhinitis, muscle aches, a worsening cough, a headache focused on the forehead and often also stomach aches. The symptoms appear fast and the patient will feel sick. Only later on in the disease will the cough and other respiratory problems develop.

Treating the influenza

Unlike with the flu, antibiotics won't work for treating the influenza as it is a virus. With healthy, working-age people the season influenza often includes a high fever, but usually home treatments are enough for recovering.

When getting influenza symptoms it is important to stay at home. Usually home treatments such as rest, drinking plenty of liquids and taking painkillers to relieve the pain are enough to treat the influenza. If complications don't occur, recovering from the influenza should take under two weeks.

- Risk groups should go to the doctor as soon as symptoms indicating to the influenza start showing up. Generally healthy people should go to the doctor if their fever is high and general well-being bad, tells Jukka Vakkila, a pediatric specialist from Mehiläinen. There is a specific antiviral drug made against the influenza virus, which prevents it from spreading. Starting the antiviral drug at the start of the disease, during the first 48 hours from when the symptoms began will substantially shorten the duration of the disease and reduce the possibility of sequalae, Vakkila tells. Therefore, it is important to pay a visit to the doctor's office after the symptoms have began to determine the disease and to start the right type of treatment.

The influenza is easily transmitted through hands, for example when shaking hands or through surfaces. During influenza seasons, touching the eyes, the nose and the mouth with hands should be avoided.

Preventing an influenza contamination

Simple ways to prevent the influenza transmission:

  • Wash hands carefully each time after going to toilet, before eating, after blowing your nose and after going outside.
  • Avoid touching the face with hands, since that is an easy way for the virus to get to the respiratory mucosa.
  • If you have the disease, cough away from other people, for example into a tissue or into your sleeve.

Getting the influenza vaccine is the most effective way to be protected from the disease

Getting vaccinated is the most effective way to be protected from the influenza and prevent it from spreading. With generally healthy, working-age people vaccinating will prevent 7 to 8 contaminations out of 10 at best. The influenza vaccination needs to be taken each autumn, as the influenza viruses change yearly.

Developing the length of protection takes about two weeks and there aren't any alive viruses in the vaccination, so one cannot get an influenza from the vaccine. The vaccination however only protects from the influenza, it does not protect from the normal flu or other respiratory tract infections.

Even if getting the influenza, the symptoms are milder with vaccinated people. Like previously, the influenza vaccine is recommended as part of the general vaccine program for people belonging to risk groups due to their health conditions. General diseases in which the treatment includes a yearly influenza vaccine are for example chronical heart, lung and kidney diseases as well as diabetes.