Flu-like illnesses are a group of illnesses all of which are characterized by similar symptoms and signs, those that resemble symptoms and signs of flu, hence the name. They are all associated with high body temperature, aches and pains in muscles and joints, cough and several more health problems. Even though the majority of patients recover completely, some may develop pneumonia or other serious complications. Lethal outcome is also possible in certain number of patients.
There is only one virus associated with flu - influenza virus. There are three types of influenza virus (A, B and C). Still, many more viruses are capable of causing influenza-like illnesses.
Symptoms of Flu and Flu-Like Illnesses
Adults and older children suffering from flu or flu-like illnesses typically develop fever and high body temperature, complain about generalized muscle and joint aches and pains, headache, sore throat, dry cough, and sneezing. They all may feel very sick and are basically bed ridden.
As far as babies and young children are concerned, both flu and flu-like illnesses are blamed for fever, sweats, cough, sneezing, breathing difficulty, lethargy and poor feeding. Susceptible children may also develop febrile seizures.
In most cases symptoms become most intensive after 1-2 days and then gradually subside over several days. Dry cough may linger for a week even after all other symptoms and signs are gone.
Additional Symptoms Pointing to Flu-Like Illnesses
There are many other illnesses that can mimic flu in their initial stages and when they first develop. For instance, this is reported in case of meningitis, malaria and pneumonia.
If one additionally develops skin rash, stiff neck, worsening headache, photophobia, drowsiness or confusion, repeated vomiting, chest pains or coughs up blood/blood-stained sputum, he/she is most likely not suffering from flu but some other medical condition.Treatment for Flu and Flu-like Illnesses
General measures include lowering high body temperature with antipyretics like acetaminophen or ibuprofen, adequate hydration and sometimes decongestant drops, Throat lozenges and saline nose drops.
Antiviral drugs such as Tamiflu and Relenza are not used all the time. They are prescribed only in patients suffering from flu and are able to reduce the severity and duration of the disease and reduce the risk of developing complications. These medications must be used within 48 hours after the onset of first symptoms of flu. Antibiotics are not routinely prescribed and are reserved for secondary bacterial infections. Patients with complications require hospitalization. The most common complication associated with flu is bacterial pneumonia.
Finally, even though there is no efficient vaccine for most flu-like illnesses, there is one quite effective against flu. People older than 65 years of age and patients with chronic lung illnesses are only two examples of people who are supposed to be vaccinated on a regular basis.