Influenza - Treat early on
Influenza is an acute upper respiratory tract infection caused by influenza viruses A and B, and it is present every winter. Even healthy adults can suffer from influenza and its sequelae for a long period of time. Influenza vaccinations are particularly helpful to children under school age, pregnant people, people over 65, anyone who belongs to a high-risk group and their loved ones. Approximately 5–15% of the population has an influenza infection every winter.
“The presence of influenza virus can be reliably diagnosed with a quick analysis of a nasal cavity sample. In a best case scenario, it is possible for a doctor to determine the pathogen and the correct mode of treatment in just thirty minutes after obtaining the sample,” says Kristina Hotakainen, Director of Laboratory Services at Mehiläinen.
Symptoms of influenza
Common symptoms of influenza include sudden high fever without rhinitis, muscle pain, a cough that worsens over time, headache in the forehead and, in most cases, abdominal pain. The onset of symptoms is fast and the patient feels ill. A really bad cough and other symptoms related to the respiratory tract only develop in the later stages of the disease.
Treatment of influenza
As influenza is not a common cold or rhinitis but rather caused by a viral infection, antibiotics are not effective against it. Healthy adults of working age usually experience a high fever during seasonal influenza, but this condition can be treated at home.
You should stay at home if you experience any symptoms. Usually, the most effective modes of home care are resting, drinking lots of liquids and taking painkillers to alleviate the symptoms. If no secondary diseases occur, the disease usually lasts for less than two weeks.
“If you belong to a high-risk group, you should seek medical attention if you experience any of the typical symptoms. If you are in good basic health, high fever and poor general condition are indications for seeking medical attention,” says paediatrician Jukka Vakkila from Mehiläinen. “There is a specific antiviral medication that prevents the replication of the influenza virus. Administering the medication right from the onset shortens the duration of the disease and prevents the onset of any sequelae,” says Vakkila.
If you belong to a high-risk group, it is important to seek medical attention very soon after the onset of typical symptoms in order to diagnose the disease and start treatment.
Prevention of influenza infections
Simple ways of preventing influenza infections:
- Wash your hands carefully when you go to the toilet, before you eat, after sneezing and after returning indoors.
- Avoid touching your face with your fingers because touching your face helps the viruses access the mucous membranes of the respiratory system.
- Direct your coughs away from other people and cough into a disposable tissue or your sleeve if you have been diagnosed with the disease.
Influenza vaccination is the most effective mode of protection
Vaccination is the most effective mode of protection against influenza and preventing its transmission. Vaccinations can prevent up to 7–8 out of 10 influenza infections among those of working age in good basic health. As influenza viruses mutate every year, we recommend getting vaccinated against seasonal influenza every autumn.
It takes about two weeks to develop immunity. There are no live influenza viruses in the vaccine, so it is impossible to get an infection from the vaccine. Seasonal influenza vaccination only provides protection against influenza. The vaccination does not provide protection against rhinitis, common cold or other respiratory tract infections.
Even if you become infected, your symptoms will be less severe if you have been vaccinated. As usual, influenza vaccinations are recommended as part of the general vaccination programme for patients belonging to a high-risk group due to their health status and their loved ones. The treatment of the following primary diseases includes influenza vaccination: chronic heart, lung and kidney diseases and diabetes.
In addition to the influenza vaccine used in the national vaccination programme, people aged over 60 can also choose to have a high-dose influenza vaccine at Mehiläinen.