Influenza is a viral infection that attacks your respiratory system —nose, throat and lungs. Influenza is commonly called the flu, but it’s not the same as stomach “flu” viruses that cause diarrhoea and vomiting.
Transmission of Influenza
The influenza viruses are mainly spread from person to person through droplets produced while coughing or sneezing. Droplets of an infected person are propelled in the air and are deposited in the mouths or noses of people nearby. However, it can also be spread by direct contact with infected individuals and by contact with contaminated objects (toys, doorknobs etc.).
Symptoms of Influenza
Influenza is usually what is called “self-diagnosable.” Symptoms include fever, chills, muscle aches, cough, congestion, runny nose, headaches and fatigue. Other common symptoms are: chest pressure, head congestion, headache, nausea, shortness of breath, sore throat, or swollen lymph nodes.
Influenza vs Covid-19
The biggest difference is that doctors are familiar with influenza—symptoms, expected recovery time and treatments. Although COVID-19 and the flu have many similarities (symptoms, mode of infection), there are some crucial differences. Firstly, they are caused by different viruses.
Secondly, symptoms of COVID-19 and the flu appear at different times and have some differences. With COVID-19, you may experience loss of taste or smell. COVID-19 symptoms generally appear two to 14 days after exposure. Flu symptoms usually appear about one to four days after exposure. COVID-19 appears to be more contagious and to spread more quickly than the flu. Severe illness such as lung injury is more frequent with COVID-19 than with influenza. The mortality rate also is higher with COVID-19 than with the flu.
Another difference is that the flu can be treated with antiviral drugs. Only one, called Remdesivir, is currently approved to treat COVID-19. Researchers are evaluating many drugs and treatments for COVID-19. Some drugs may help reduce the severity of COVID-19.
Home Remedies for Influenza
For most people, the flu resolves on its own. Others may need to be hospitalised. There are many home remedies for the flu, including:
- Drinking water and fluids
- Getting plenty of rest
- Drinking warm broth
- Upping your zinc intake
- Gargling with salt water
- Drinking herbal tea
- Inhaling steam
The Flu Shot
You can get an annual flu vaccine to help reduce your risk of the flu. The flu vaccine can also reduce the severity of the flu and the risk of serious complications. Each year’s flu vaccine protects from the three or four influenza viruses expected to be the most common during that year’s flu season. The vaccine can be given as a shot (injection) or as a nasal spray.
The flu vaccine doesn’t protect you from getting COVID-19. Research also shows that getting the flu vaccine does not make you more likely to get COVID-19 or other respiratory infections.
You should get a flu vaccine before flu viruses begin spreading since it takes about two weeks after vaccination for antibodies to develop in the body and provide protection against flu.
The CDC states that while vaccine effectiveness can vary, recent studies show that flu vaccination reduces the risk of flu illness by between 40% and 60% among the overall population during seasons when most circulating flu viruses are well-matched to the flu vaccine.
Common side effects from a flu shot include soreness, redness, and/or swelling where the shot was given, headache (low grade), fever, nausea, muscle aches, and fatigue. The flu shot, like other injections, can occasionally cause fainting.
Flu shot vs Covid-19 vaccination
Though the coronavirus vaccines and flu shots use distinctly different technologies against two unique viruses, they still have the same job: teaching our immune system how to recognise and attack a virus. The COVID-19 shots appear to be even more effective at preventing severe disease, along with hospitalisation and death. Experts suspect the vaccine technologies developed during the pandemic will be used to improve existing vaccines such as the flu shot.