This FLU season have been very active with both children and adults contracting respiratory illnesses which required visits to the doctor and even multiple over-the-counter medications. Of those who were actually tested, majority of local cases were due to the rhinovirus, often known as the ‘common cold’ while very few cases were due to the actual Influenza virus (the flu). This virus is usually self-limiting and can be treated as an outpatient in the comfort of your own home. Severe cases may require more advance care at a tertiary health institution eg. Hospital or urgent care facility.
With rhinovirus (common cold), the period between exposure of the virus and the appearance of the first symptom is 12-72 hours, averaging 8-16 hours after the virus invades the nose. Symptoms generally last 7-11 days, but can persist for up to 2 weeks.
It spreads from person to person via droplets from the nose or mouth.
o Nasal dryness/irritation
o Runny nose/congestion (Intensify over 2-3 days)
o Sore throat
o Facial and ear pressure
o Cough (usually the last symptom to recover)
o Post-tussive vomiting (vomiting after cough)
o Fever (typically low grade)
The mainstays of treatment are rest, hydration, nasal decongestants/saline drops and antihistamines. The use of medications such as acetaminophen (Panadol/Paracetamol/Tylenol/Calpol) to manage fever is also recommended.
Children younger than 6 years should receive treatment with pain medication, cough suppressants, decongestants, or antihistamines, only as prescribed by a physician.
However, the use of over-the-counter cough and cold medicines in children younger than 2 years is not recommended.
Some persons with severe symptoms eg. Wheezing, congestion etc may require bouts of nebulization. It is very important that persons with chronic respiratory illness (eg. Asthma) adhere to the preventative measures to limit the chances of contracting the virus, as it can cause exacerbation of the illness. These persons should have adequate supply of their medications and use it as needed.
Positioning the mattress or pillow at 45 degrees during sleep/rest aids with temporarily relieving congestion.
For the duration of the illness, it is recommended to stay away from smoking and alcohol use.Antibiotics are also not recommended as the infection is caused by a virus. Antibiotics are used to treat infections caused by a bacteria.
Prevention of spread is key. Simple actions such as proper washing of hands, using hand sanitizer, disinfecting your home, covering the nose and mouth during coughing or sneezing can go a long way in preventing further spread of the virus.
REMEMBER, the flu vaccine is available for all and can protect against contracting the flu.