Summer flu, also commonly referred to as flu, is a highly contagious respiratory infection. It is caused by the influenza virus that leads to seasonal epidemics of respiratory illnesses in most countries. Irrespective of the seasonality of the virus, people tend to experience flu symptoms during summer.
The influenza activity is relatively constant throughout the year in countries with tropical climates, such as India. However, in the southern hemisphere, summer flu peaks between April and September.
In this section, we will be discussing in detail the summer flu causes, treatment, and prevention in detail. Let us begin by understanding the symptoms of the same.
You can start experiencing the summer flu symptoms suddenly, which may include -
Cough and Sneezes
Runny or Congested nostrils
The symptoms of summer flu are likely to be similar to other summer diseases. In extreme cases, the infection due to the influenza virus can lead to vomiting and diarrhoea. The summer flu symptoms are more common in children as compared to the older generation. Further, before we understand the treatment and preventive measures for summer flu, let us understand the causes for the same.
Ideally, certain illnesses can lead you to experience summer flu-like symptoms. These include -
The common cold is another respiratory infection developed due to several viruses. The common cold and summer flu symptoms tend to overlap. People experience a runny or congested nose, cough, constant sneezing, and sore throat.
However, the difference between the two is that, unlike summer flu, the symptoms of the common cold develop over time and are less likely to be severe to one’s health. You can get in touch with your doctor to understand the difference between the two before taking any medication.
Gastroenteritis is also commonly known as stomach flu and is not related to the influenza virus. It is usually caused due to several viruses such as noroviruses or rotaviruses. A few common symptoms between summer flu and gastroenteritis include fever, headache, and body aches.
However, in comparison to summer flu, the symptoms of gastroenteritis are associated with the gastrointestinal tract. In some cases, the person can also experience watery diarrhoea and abdominal cramps.
As known, pneumonia is an infection caused in the lungs. While it can be regarded as one of the health complications arising due to summer flu, there are several other causes for the illness as well. Some of the pneumonia causes include viruses, bacteria, fungi, and chemical/environmental agents.
However, a few common symptoms between summer flu and pneumonia are fever, chills, and headache. Other pneumonia symptoms include cough (with green or yellow mucus), shortness of breath, sharp chest pains. In case you are experiencing any of these symptoms, ensure that you get the right medical assistance as soon as possible.
Bronchitis disease causes inflammation of the bronchial tubes in the lungs. Similar to pneumonia, bronchitis can start by showing summer flu symptoms. However, an apparent cause for the disease includes other viruses and lifestyle habits such as smoking.
A few overlapping symptoms between bronchitis and summer flu are cough, fever, chills, fatigue, or malaise. Along with these common symptoms, people suffering from bronchitis can show symptoms of cough with mucus, shortness of breath, and distress in the chest.
Food poisoning is caused by eating contaminated food that was a breeding ground for pathogens such as viruses, bacteria, and parasites. However, as compared to the summer flu, the symptoms of food poisoning are associated with the gastrointestinal tract. The person suffering from this infection can experience nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, abdominal pain, and fever.
Lyme disease is caused due to a type of bacteria that primarily spread via the bite of a tick. If the disease is undiagnosed and untreated, it can lead to severe health complications. Some of the early symptoms of Lyme disease are similar to the summer flu - fever, chills, body aches, and fatigue.
However, some of the apparent symptoms of the disease include bulls-eye rash in the area of the tick bite. But note that this rash does not appear in all patients suffering from Lyme disease. It is imperative to get in touch with a doctor before the illness gets severe and causes health complications.
In case you are experiencing the summer flu symptoms, you should consider visiting a doctor if you have:
Fever over 103°F (39.4°C)
Cough with yellow, green, or brown mucus
Shortness of breath or breathing difficulty
Chest pain, especially when breathing in
Summer flu symptoms that return and are worse to deal
Furthermore, you should get immediate medical assistance if you have any underlying health complications that can worsen the summer flu symptoms. People who are at risk of this are as follows -
Children below the age of 18 years
Pregnant women or those who have given birth in the past two weeks
People with a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 40 or above (use the BMI calculator to determine the same)
People with a weak immune system
People with a severe chronic condition such as heart disease, lung infections, and diabetes
People with mild or moderate summer flu symptoms usually recover in a few days without any treatment. Getting essential rest can help them recover from the infection in a few days or weeks. However, doctors can recommend antiviral medications to ease summer flu symptoms.
Your doctor can prescribe antiviral medications such as oseltamivir (Tamiflu) and zanamivir (Relenza) that helps relieve the symptoms of summer flu. Antiviral medications are highly effective in treating summer flu when taken within 48 hours of developing the symptoms.
Besides this, there are a few home remedies that can help alleviate summer flu symptoms. These include -
Taking over-the-counter medicines to reduce body aches and fever
Consuming plenty of water and other fluids
Drinking warm beverages such as tea and broths to soothe the sore throat
Taking cough syrups and decongestants
Using a humidifier to add moisture to indoor settings, making the air breathable
Taking steam to help open the congested nostrils and reduce sinus
Avoiding the consumption of spicy food items and oily food
One can take the following preventive measures to protect themselves from contracting the summer flu. These include -
Getting timely flu vaccination during the peak flu season
Avoid getting close or having physical contact with people suffering from summer flu
Staying more until recovery
Covering your mouth and nose often when coughing or sneezing
Washing hands regularly with soap
Using alcohol-based sanitisers
Maintaining good personal hygiene
Keeping your house and surrounding clean and disinfected
Besides this, doing the following things will help build resilience against the summer flu virus.
Managing your stress
Getting enough sleep in the night
Leading a healthy lifestyle
Know that summer flu is contagious. While most people recover from the infection within a few weeks, if the symptoms are persistent and getting worse by the day, you need to get medical attention as soon as possible. Ensure that summer flu symptoms do not lead to health complications. If that happens, make sure that you are following appropriate treatment for recovery.
Also, it is best to have a comprehensive health insurance plan that helps cover medical contingencies as and when they arise.