People with high fever, sore throat, runny nose and chest congestion are crowding clinics with seasonal flu registering a spurt with the sudden drop in temperature over the past week.
The flu, which usually starts with a sore throat is followed by 100 degrees fever and runny nose, now accounts for more than 50% of people showing up at out-patient clinics.
Some people also report severe headache and body-ache. The numbers are likely to go up, say doctors.
“I see about 10 patients with flu-like symptoms in a day, with the numbers starting to go up over the past one week due to changing weather,” said Dr Atul Gogia, senior consultant, department of medicine at Ganga Ram Hospital.
“There could be more cases in coming days as temperature is fluctuating.”
Viral infections are self-limiting, which means the symptoms take five days to a week to subside. “You do not need anti-virals or other medicines to treat the flu, unless there are serious complications,” said Dr RK Singal, director, internal medicine, BLK Super-Speciality Hospital. “At most, go for symptomatic treatment, such as having a paracetamol for fever and pain and decongestants for relief from lung congestion.”
Antibiotics are not needed as long as the infection stays in the upper respiratory tract and your symptoms are limited fever, aches and pain, sore throat, cough and a cold.
Untreated infection in the lungs can lead to complications such as bronchitis or pneumonia, so visit a doctor if you develop pain in the chest while coughing or breathing.
Flu viruses travel through air in droplets released when an infected person coughs, sneezes or talks. You can inhale the droplets directly, or can pick up the germs from infected surfaces such as door knobs, computer keyboard, table top etc. that are eventually transferred when the person touches his or her eyes, nose or mouth.
“Staying hydrated by drinking plenty of warm fluids such as soup, herbal tea, etc, is important since fever tends to dehydrate the body,” said Dr Singal.
At highest risk are children, people above 65 years of age and those with low immunity owing to underlying medical conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, cancer, heart disease, tuberculosis, etc.
“This group needs to be extra careful and see a doctor immediately after developing symptoms,” says Dr Singal.
When sick, you must:
- Cough and sneeze into a tissue and discard after each use
- Cover your mouth while sneezing or coughing
- Don’t share food, water, clothes or bed linen when sick
- Wash hands frequently to prevent germs from contaminating surfaces
- Drink lots of water and fluids
- Drinking lukewarm fluids helps in clearing the chest congestion
- Antibiotics fight bacteria, and are useless against viruses that cause the seasonal flu
- Doctors may prescribe antibiotics if you develop a secondary bacterial infection
- Always complete the full course of antibiotics, which is usually prescribed for five days