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Health & Wellness

Understanding Influenza: Symptoms, Management, and Canadian Health Resources

minute read

Influenza (the flu) can sideline our health. Learn more on what influenza is, how to manage it, and where to go for credible resources.

Understanding Influenza: Symptoms, Management, and Canadian Health Resources
October 25, 2023

Hi Friends,

We're well into cold and flu season and it's a good time to learn about what the flu is, actually.

Influenza, commonly known as the flu, is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses. This seasonal menace can strike individuals of all ages and can lead to a range of symptoms, from mild to severe. Understanding what influenza is, its symptoms, and how to manage it is essential for staying healthy during flu season. In Canada, numerous health resources are available to help educate and inform the public about the flu.

What is Influenza? Influenza is a viral infection that primarily affects the nose, throat, and lungs. It can cause a wide range of symptoms, including fever, cough, sore throat, body aches, fatigue, and even more severe complications. The virus is highly contagious and can spread through respiratory droplets when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or talks. The incubation period for influenza is 24 to 72 hours. Adults with influenza remain infectious for 3 to 5 days after onset of symptoms, and children may remain infectious for up to a week after onset. Influenza viruses can change over time, making it necessary to update the flu vaccine annually to provide protection against the most prevalent strains. Note that antibiotics will not work on a virus.

Symptoms: The symptoms of influenza typically include a sudden onset of fever, chills, fatigue, and body aches. Other common symptoms are a dry cough, sore throat, and nasal congestion. Gastrointestinal symptoms like nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea can also occur, but are more common in children. Influenza typically lasts a week to 10 days. It's important to distinguish between the common cold and the flu, as the latter tends to be more severe and can lead to complications such as pneumonia.

Management: Managing influenza primarily involves supportive care to relieve symptoms and prevent complications. Rest, hydration, and over-the-counter medications to alleviate fever, pain, and congestion can help. Antiviral medications are available and can be prescribed by a healthcare professional, especially for individuals at high risk of complications, such as the elderly and those with underlying health conditions. Getting an annual flu vaccine is the most effective way to prevent influenza.

Canadian Health Resources

  1. Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC): The PHAC is a valuable resource for comprehensive information on influenza in Canada. They provide updates on flu activity, vaccination programs, and guidelines for healthcare professionals and the general public.
  2. Canadian Immunization Guide: The Canadian Immunization Guide, maintained by the Canadian government, offers detailed information on the seasonal influenza vaccine, including recommendations, vaccine components, and administration guidelines.

Understanding influenza, its symptoms, and how to manage it is crucial for maintaining public health during flu season. Canadians can rely on the Public Health Agency of Canada and the Canadian Immunization Guide as trusted resources to stay informed and protected against the flu. Remember that annual vaccination is your best defense against this contagious and potentially severe illness.

Stay informed, stay healthy!

Matthew Jubelius, RN

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