Articles, Blog

Flu Symptoms and Diagnosis

October 25, 2019


Female Voiceover: At this point
in your life, you’ve probably been
infected with the influenza virus. So think back, if you can, on what was
probably a pretty miserable experience. Think of the symptoms that you had. All the symptoms that we feel
when we’re sick with the flu
are related to the course that the virus takes as
it moves through our body. But first the virus has
to get into our body. Let’s say that someone who is infected
with the flu sneezes or coughs near you and they spray a bunch of
tiny droplets into the air. Each of these droplets can contain
millions of influenza viruses. And if we breathe this in
through the nose or the mouth,
we can get infected this way. Another way we can get infected
is, let’s say some of these
droplets settle on a surface like a table for instance. The flu virus can survive on a surface
like this for two to eight hours. So if we’re unfortunate enough
to touch a surface like this and
then touch our mouth or our nose we can get infected this way as well. This is why practicing good
hand hygiene is so critical in
preventing the spread of disease. So don’t forget to wash your hands,
especially during flu season. Now in this case, unfortunately the
virus has entered into our system. It’s moving its way through our body. It’s going to infect cells along
the way and cause cell damage. The damage that these cells experience
is going to show up as the symptoms
that we’re so familiar with. As the virus moves in through the
nose, we might get some congestion. Then the virus is going to
make its way down into the
throat, giving us a sore throat. Then it will get all the way
into the lungs causing a cough. In response to the damage that
the virus causes the body, the immune system is going to
increase the temperature of the body in hopes that this will make
viral replication more difficult. This is why we get fever and chills. This battle that the body is fighting
against, the influenza virus, consumes a lot of energy. This is why we are so exhausted when
all of a sudden we’re in bed for days. It’s miserable. A lot of common viruses can
cause these symptoms, right? The common cold, for instance,
can give us a runny nose. So how do we know that it’s actually
the influenza virus specifically that is making us feel so sick? Typically a person infected
with influenza virus will have
a fever of over 100 degrees, along with either a
sore throat or a cough. This combination of symptoms is what
we call an influenza-like illness. We say influenza-like illness because it’s
not yet confirmed with a laboratory test. It’s just a combination of symptoms. We shorten this by saying ILI. During flu season between
December and February, doctors who see an influenza-like
illness will usually attribute
this to an infection with the influenza virus without
getting a laboratory test. So next time your friend says, “I had the flu last week. I
was completely congested.” Now you know you can say, “Well did you have a fever with
either a sore throat or a cough?” Because that is what you really
need for the clinical diagnosis
of an influenza-like illness. Some doctors actually might
want to confirm their diagnosis
of influenza with a lab test. They do this by using something that
looks kind of like a giant Q-Tip. They go straight to the source. Let’s think about the places that you’d
most likely find an influenza virus in someone who is sick. You’d go to the nose and
you’d go to the throat right? Remember this is why we have nasal
congestion and a sore throat, because the virus is hanging out here. We call this a nasopharyngeal swab. Naso for nose and pharyngeal for throat. We’re going to take
this nasopharyngeal swab into the nose, into the back of the
throat, to collect some of these cells. We’re going to send this to the
lab to find out if in fact it’s
an infection with influenza virus. There are other kinds of lab
tests that can confirm the
diagnosis of influenza infection but this is the most common
and most likely what you’ll
see in a clinical setting.

1 Comment

  • Reply Peppermint November 29, 2016 at 5:26 pm

    The perfect remedy for Flu is saltwater gargle. Start at the first throat sign of discomfort, repeat several times a day and especially after a sweet meal or treat.

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