Medical Terminology Made Simple: Influenza

Barry Lenson

Medical Terminology Made Simple: Influenza

Online Medical Terminology Course

As a service to students who are thinking of entering the medical and medical support professions, StraighterLine is running short posts on medical terms. Each post will define one medical problem or condition.

 Today’s term is . . .  Influenza, or “The Flu”

This is the time of year when people start thinking about the flu, especially people who never got their flu shots and are now aching and paining and experiencing all the other unpleasant – and sometimes dangerous – symptoms of this common disease.

What is the flu? Although it seems like a common cold on steroids, it is actually a bit more serious than that.  Influenza is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza A or B viruses. Most often, you get it by coming into close proximity with someone who is carrying one of those viruses, then the flu enters your body and spreads through your respiratory tract.

What makes the flu sneaky is that it takes a few days after infection for symptoms to develop. During those few days, people who are infected still go to work and to school, where they infect other people. That explains why all the students in a particular school, for example, can come down with the disease at about the same time.

Why can’t some pharmaceutical company simply develop a vaccine for the disease, and get rid of it for good? It’s because influenza viruses are constantly evolving and changing, so no one serum can possibly eradicate the disease for good.

The best way to prevent flu is to: 1) wash your hands often if you come into contact with lots of other people, and; 2) get a flu shot early in the flu season, if possible.

If you do get the flu, it can be a mistake to simply try to tough it out. So go to see your physician as soon as you get a fever, a cough, intestinal upsets, or other symptoms. If you get the flu, get a lot of bed rest, and drink plenty of liquids, since the flu (especially if accompanied by diarrhea or other intestinal symptoms) can really dehydrate you.

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