Upper Respiratory Flu
This information is about upper respiratory flu — or “influenza.” You’ll learn what flu is, how to recognize it, how to treat it, and how to help prevent it.
Upper respiratory flu is a viral illness that affects your nose, throat, and chest. It’s like the common cold — but flu usually produces a higher fever. Upper respiratory flu is not the same as stomach flu, which disrupts your digestive system.
Learn to recognize upper respiratory flu.
It usually starts with a mild sore throat, headache, and mild muscle pain — especially in your back, arms, and legs. Your muscles may feel as if you’d over-exercised them. You may develop a cough and a fever. Your temperature may be normal or go as high as one hundred and four degrees. The fever may be accompanied by a chilly feeling. Occasionally, symptoms include nausea and diarrhea too. The fever and cough usually start to go down after about three days — but you may feel weak and tired up to a week or more.
How to treat upper respiratory flu.
Often neither you nor your doctor can tell whether you have the common cold or influenza during the first three days of your illness. This is why no specific treatment is usually given. Even if it is the flu, antibiotics such as penicillin don’t work on flu because they kill only bacteria. The flu is caused by a virus. Your body’s defenses do the best job in fighting this illness themselves.
You can help your body fight flu in two important ways. First, get as much rest as possible. Do light activities if you need to, but rest as soon as you get tired. If your job requires a lot of physical activity, you may need to stay home from work, especially if you have fever, generalized aching, nausea, and vomiting. Also, by resting at home you won’t risk infecting others at work. Secondly, drink plenty of clear fluids like water, apple juice and clear soups. Seven-Up and other soft drinks are fine, if you let them go flat before drinking. Clear fluids replace lost moisture in your body, help loosen secretions and let your stomach rest and recover.
If you smoke, stop. Smoke irritates your nose, throat, and chest, and it could produce a severe chest infection later.
While your body fights the illness, you can reduce the symptoms. For congestion and coughing, cough syrups such as Robitussin-DM may help. They can be bought without prescription.
For fever and pain, adults can take aspirin or Tylenol every four hours. But for children under nineteen, avoid aspirin, which may possibly increase the risk of a serious illness called Reye’s Syndrome. Give a child Tylenol only if discomfort is severe. However, if a child under five has previously had convulsions due to fever, give Tylenol as soon as the child has a fever. For both adults and children, use light clothing or covers when fever is present. Never bundle up to “sweat the fever out.” However, do cover up if shivering or chilliness occurs.
Finally, if your cough and fever don’t start to get better after three days, telephone your health care provider for advice. If you are better after 3-5 days, but you continue to have a cough which produces yellow or green sputum, or if sinus drainage persists for more than two weeks, contact your doctor.
Upper respiratory flu can usually be prevented by getting a flu shot each year in the fall beginning in October or November, at least three weeks before the flu season. This is especially important if you have a chronic medical condition such as diabetes, or heart, lung or kidney disease or if you’re 65 years of age or older. In addition, if you are in any of these higher-risk groups, you should call your health care provider if you get the flu or if you’re exposed to it.
Upper respiratory flu is spread through coughing, sneezing and nasal drainage. If you are coughing or sneezing, it may be wise to avoid contact with the general public, especially at work or at school. Protect others by covering your mouth when you cough or sneeze. Be sure to wash your hands after touching your nose mouth and after blowing your nose.
Remember these key points about upper respiratory flu:
- The most effective treatment of flu is plenty of rest and fluids.
- Cough syrup and pain relievers can reduce the symptoms, but avoid giving aspirin to children or adolescents.
- If fever and cough don’t begin to improve after three days, call your doctor for advice.
- If you are at high-risk for flu, get a flu shot at least three weeks before the winter flu season.