influenza is an infection that you get from viruses. When you get the flu it is common that you suddenly get a high fever, headache, muscle pain, sore throat, and cough.
Some flu vaccines are recommended
Some people are at greater risk of becoming seriously ill if they get the flu or sequelae of the flu. They are recommended to vaccinate against influenza every year. This applies to those who are older than 65 and you, for example, who have heart disease, lung disease, diabetes or a severely impaired immune system. This also applies to you who are pregnant.
For young and middle-aged people who are otherwise healthy, the risk of sequelae is small. Therefore, they do not need to vaccinate.
Symptoms of the flu
Influenza often starts suddenly. Some become seriously ill with a high fever and cough, while others only suffer from minor problems.
You usually get several of the following symptoms of influenza:
- You feel very sick or tired.
- You have muscle pain.
- You have a high fever and headaches.
- You feel tired and frozen.
- You have a sore throat and dry cough.
Poor appetite is also common.
The fever is usually around 39-40 degrees and remains for up to a week.
You may be tired for a while afterward
After about a week, the most difficult part of the flu is usually over, but it’s usually that you are tired for a few weeks afterward.
Children may have other symptoms
Children younger than two years may have diarrhea, nausea, vomiting and stomach pain as common symptoms of the flu. It can cause them to have a fluid deficiency.
When and where should I seek care?
Most people with the flu do not need to seek care because the problems usually go away by themselves.
If any of the following is true, contact a health care center or an on-call clinic :
- You have a high fever that does not go down after four days.
- You have a high fever that has gone down and then starts to rise again.
- You belong to one of the groups recommended for influenza vaccination and have had flu symptoms.
This is true even if you are vaccinated. If closed, you can wait until the on-call reception or medical center open.
If it’s in a hurry
If you have one or more of the following problems, please contact a health care center or an on-call reception immediately.
- You suddenly become much worse.
- You get respiratory problems even when you rest.
If it is closed at the health center or on-call reception, seek care at an emergency room.
So the flu gets infected
The flu virus is often transmitted through the air. The virus is spread, for example, when someone who is sick coughs, sneezes or exhales. Through the air, the virus spreads and if you get it you can get infected.
The virus can also spread by, for example, taking care of someone who is sick and who has the virus on their hands. If you then get the virus from your hands, you can get sick.
The time from being infected until you get sick is short. It takes between one to four days.
Influenza infects more easily indoors
The risk of being infected is greater indoors than outdoors, as the infection spreads faster in the open air. It is common for the infection to spread, for example, on buses, schools, preschools, and workplaces.
You become infected as long as you feel sick
Influenza infects even before you have any symptoms. You can thus infect others without knowing that you are ill. You are most contagious when you feel sickest, but you can get infected as long as you feel sick.
If you have a disease that causes you to have a poor immune system, you may be contagious for a long time. The same applies if you are treated with cytostatic drugs.
You may become infected again
You are not protected for years to come, even if you have had the flu. The flu virus comes in a new form almost every year. Therefore, there is always a risk that you may become infected again.
The flu spreads more easily during the winter
Influenza is always found in someplace on earth. One explanation is that the virus spreads more easily in dry and cold air than in hot and humid air.
It is very different how long the outbreak of influenza lasts. It can vary between six weeks and four months. The outbreak usually occurs sometime between December and April.
So you can reduce the risk of flu
Here are some tips to help reduce the risk of being infected with the flu:
- Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly with soap and water.
- Avoid touching your eyes, your nose, and your mouth.
- Avoid close contact with people you know are sick.
Here are some tips to avoid infecting others if you’re sick:
- Wash your hands frequently and carefully, especially if you cough and sneeze.
- Cough or sneeze in the arms fold, or in a paper handkerchief that you throw in a garbage bag.
- Stay home from work or school as long as you have a fever or feel ill.
What can I do for myself?
Antibiotics do not help with the flu, because the flu is caused by viruses. There are several things you can do yourself to relieve the hassle.
Rest a lot
Feel how much the body is capable of and do not strain too much. You need to rest, but that doesn’t mean you always have to lie down to bed. Usually, it is good if you are up and moving every now and then. It can feel good to be outdoors for a while and get some fresh air.
It is common for you to lose a lot of fluid when you are sick with the flu. Therefore, when you have a fever, it is extra important to drink enough so that you do not get a fluid deficiency.
You may need help getting a drink if you have difficulty coping or remember to drink. It can be good to drink fluid replacement to get enough fluid in you.
It is also good to try to eat, even if you do not feel hungry.
You who care for a child who is sick with the flu need to help the child get enough fluid, especially if the child has a fever. Then they need to drink more than usual. Otherwise, the child may have fluid deficiency.
Lie with your head high
It is easier to breathe and sleep if your head is high. For example, you can put extra pillows under your head. It can feel more comfortable for your back if you put the pillows under the mattress. The same goes for children who are sick with the flu. Young children may find it comfortable to sit in a babysitter, on their knees or in a baby carrier.
Try nasal drops or nasal spray
You can try nasal drops or nasal spray that reduce the swelling of the nose if you are very stuffy. The drugs can be purchased without a prescription. Do not use the nasal spray for more than 10 consecutive days unless your doctor tells you otherwise.
You can give saline drops to children who are stuffy in the nose. For children over one year, you can also give decongestant nasal drops or nasal spray. Different nasal sprays and nasal drops are approved from different ages. Ask at a pharmacy and carefully read the instructions on the package.
Relieve sore throat
Cold or hot beverages often have a sedative effect on a sore throat, both in children and adults. Ice cream and yogurt can also feel good.
There are lozenges and sprays that have anti-inflammatory effects. This means that they relieve pain and swelling in the throat. There are also lozenges that appear to be numb in the throat. You can buy the drugs at a pharmacy. Some of these drugs can be used by both children and adults, but not all. Check the packaging or ask your pharmacist if you are unsure.
Relieve the cough
You can try to relieve the cough by drinking a cold or hot drink. It appears to ease in the throat and the airways.
It is good to have a glass of water close at hand if you cough a lot at night. Some sips of water can relieve the cough, both in adults and children.
The medicines for cough found in pharmacies have poorly documented effects, but some find that they help.
Read more about cough and cough in children.
Drugs for pain and fever in adults
There are several different prescription drugs. Examples are drugs containing paracetamol and drugs belonging to the NSAID group, or cox inhibitors.
Medication for pain and fever in children
Fever is one of the body’s ways of defending and fighting infections. Viruses do not thrive in the body when it gets too hot. Therefore, do not treat a fever in a child who is otherwise well.
You can give non-prescription fever-reducing and pain-relieving drugs if the child has a fever and is wheezy, does not want to eat or drink or has difficulty getting to rest in the evening.
- You can give medicines containing paracetamol to children from three months of age.
- You can give medicines containing ibuprofen from the age of six months.
The drugs are available in several different forms that are suitable for children, such as orodispersible tablets and solutions. Ask a pharmacy what is right for your child.
Follow the instructions on the package carefully and do not combine different medicines.
You can read more about medicine in the package leaflet that comes with the package.
Giving medicines to children
Prescription drugs for temporary pain
There are no drugs that make you healthy from the flu, but there are drugs that slow the virus. They are called antiviral or antiviral drugs. They are prescribed by a doctor. The drug does not help against other respiratory tract infections.
Treatment for influenza with antiviral drugs must begin within the first two days that you are ill for the drug to have effect.
You who have an increased risk of getting seriously ill from the flu may need to be treated with antiviral drugs. Sometimes you can get it for preventive purposes, for example, if someone close to you has got the flu.
Usually, no major examinations are required for a physician to determine if you have the flu if you have typical symptoms during the flu season.
The doctor is examining you
The doctor starts by doing a general examination of you. You are told how you feel and the doctor looks in your mouth and throat. The doctor also usually examines your lymph nodes and listens to your heart and lungs.
Usually, you do not need to submit any samples. But sometimes the doctor may take a sample from the inner, back of your nose. The sample is taken through the nose with a thin cotton swab and then sent for analysis.
Sometimes you have to have a blood test to exclude other illnesses from your doctor.
Tests determine what type of flu it is
The samples taken at the beginning of an influenza outbreak are sent to special laboratories where it is determined what kind of influenza it is. During a current epidemic of influenza, a simpler method is used which means that the results can often be completed on the day the sample arrives at the laboratory.
Complications and sequelae
Influenza can sometimes develop into an infection with bacteria, such as sinusitis, ear inflammation or pneumonia. Then the fever often comes back after being gone for a while, and you get more pain or more trouble.
The risk of becoming seriously ill from the flu or a sequelae increases if you have other serious illnesses.
More about the flu
There are often new outbreaks of influenza. That’s because flu viruses can create new virus forms that our immune system lacks protection against. The different virus forms are called influenza strains.
The new forms of influenza virus probably arise in an interaction between different influenza strains in birds, pigs, and humans. When different strains of influenza meet, new viruses are created. Sometimes they can infect people.
Different forms of the influenza virus
There are three different types of influenza viruses. They are called influenza A, B, and C. It is influenza A and influenza B that can give the typical flu symptoms.
- Influenza A can cause epidemics that spread across several continents, so-called pandemics.
- Influenza B produces more limited outbreaks.
- Influenza C only produces local outbreaks with a mild respiratory infection.
Influence and participate in your care
You can seek care at any healthcare center you want throughout the country.
You should understand the information
In order for you to be able to participate in your care and make decisions, it is important that you understand the information you receive from the healthcare staff. Ask questions if you don’t understand.
You have the opportunity to get help from an interpreter if you have a hearing impairment or speech difficulties