How is the flu different from a cold?

What complications can the flu have? Which population groups are at the highest risk of getting sick? How is the flu transmitted? How to protect yourself and loved ones?

Typical picture of a cold

First, your throat hurts or you have a runny nose. Later, weakness begins and the temperature is around 37 C. You take sick leave, hide under a blanket, drink tea and watch TV shows. After a couple of days, the symptoms disappear and you return to your work schedule. This is more like an unplanned vacation than a disease.

Typical picture of the flu

You suddenly feel bad, although nothing foreshadowed trouble. The temperature immediately rises above 38 C, you feel incredible weakness, there can be no talk of any work. Your head is splitting, you don’t want to watch TV shows at all. Your body starts to ache — it feels like your joints are being twisted and your muscles are tearing. As a cherry on top, vomiting and diarrhea may start. Dry cough with a runny nose naturally comes with it.

But that was only what you can feel right away. What are the pitfalls of the flu? The real danger is complications. They include:

PneumoniaAcute bronchitisAcute laryngotracheitisToxic brain damageInflammation of the brain membranes — encephalitisInflammation of the heart muscle — myocarditisInflammation of the heart sac — pericarditisInflammation of the muscles — myositisMuscle destruction — rhabdomyolysis

The listed complications can disable a person or even kill. According to WHO estimates, flu epidemics worldwide cause up to 650,000 deaths per year.

Which population groups are most vulnerable to the flu?

Firstly, take care of your older family members. People over 65 are at increased risk of flu complications. The disease among this group of patients often ends in death. This is simply explained — the immunity of the elderly is weaker, there are chronic diseases of the lungs and heart, so the flu is much worse.

Secondly, these are children. The younger the child, the less developed his protective mechanisms. The organs are not fully formed, so they can be severely damaged by the flu virus or its complications. Mortality in this group is also higher.

Thirdly, representatives of social professions. Doctors, teachers, sellers, public transport drivers, couriers interact with a large number of people every day. This increases the risk of getting infected with the flu virus several times.

And finally, people with a low level of immunity. This includes HIV-infected, cancer patients and those suffering from chronic diseases.

How is the flu transmitted?

From person to person by airborne droplets. The highest risk of getting sick in enclosed spaces with a large number of people, for example, in schools. If there is someone in the team who is infected with the flu virus, he coughs and throws the pathogen into the room. Over time, the amount of virus in the air grows, as does the risk of getting sick for others present.

The most dangerous distance is 1 — 1.5 meters from a sick person. High humidity accelerates the transmission of the virus. After getting into the body, it infects cells and begins to multiply rapidly. At this time, there are no manifestations of infection, so it is called the incubation period and lasts up to 4 days.

How to protect yourself and loved ones?

Get a flu vaccination every year. The fact is that the virus constantly mutates and changes. WHO carefully monitors this process and predicts which strains of the virus this year are most likely to cause an epidemic. Based on statistics, a vaccine is developed that is relevant for the next year. In most cases, it will protect against infection. Even if the disease still occurs — your body will cope with it much easier and with a low risk of complications.

WHO recommends symptomatic treatment of the flu, that is, aimed at eliminating temperature, pain, fever and other manifestations of infection. To get acquainted with the drugs that are recommended for treatment in the USA, click here.

Are you afraid to get vaccinated, think it’s dangerous, causes diseases or can lead to death? Then you are here — read our answers to 10 common questions about vaccination!

You might think, why vaccinations, if there are antiviral drugs? We have to disagree. A review of scientific data and the effectiveness of this group of drugs can be read here.