& # 39; It's the season for Turkey despite, Black Friday sales and fighting for the last pumpkin pie. Oh, and the flu.
According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 3% to 11% of the United States population must manage the flu each year with an average of 8% becoming ill. And while the flu vaccine is a must, it still only reduces your flu risk by 40% to 60% which means it is not a complete protection depending on your health, age and what kind of flu virus you are getting. (If you get the flu after you get a flu shot, the vaccine will reduce the severity of the symptoms and help prevent flu-related complications like pneumonia. So it's still important to get it.)
Here, flu experts share what which happens when you are exposed to the flu including why it triggers some of the unpleasant symptoms like fever, pain and chills. Read on to learn, as well as get some guidance on how to stay as protected as possible this flu season.
First, the flu must find a way to get into the body
Simply being in the house with someone who has the flu will not get sick, but it can definitely increase your risk factor if you do not practice proper hand washing hygiene.
"The virus must find a way to get into your nose or mouth," said Amesh Adalja a senior scientist at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security. “It is usually transmitted from person to person through cough, sneezing or mucus or saliva that may be on someone's hands. It can also be transmitted from ordinary surfaces that people can touch. They may have dried their noses and then touch their hands before putting it on a surface or may have sneezed on the surface. "
Your eyes and ears may also be places of access, but Adalja said these are far less common entry points. , so make sure you wash your hands frequently and well during the flu season to prevent the virus from infecting you from the start.
You will not have symptoms immediately when the virus enters your system
When the virus enters your nose or mouth through direct contact (such as sneezing, yuck) or indirectly (such as using a towel shortly after An infected person has previously used the virus) to get to your immune system, but this will not happen immediately.
"When the flu enters your body, it will establish a store and cause the same infection in you," said Aaron Glatt president of infectious disease and hospital epidemiologist at Mount Sinai South Nassau in Hewlett, New York. “The incubation period is about one to four days. On average, two days, but it is still a very contagious disease during this time. "
This means you can be asymptomatic for a day or two but a lot can spread the flu to others without even knowing about it.
When the influenza settles, it is on its way to your cells
Specifically, the virus goes to your respiratory epithelial cells, which set your airways.
"The virus binds to sialic acids found on these cells, and these sialic acids act as receptors to help cells signal and communicate with each other," Adalja explained.
The virus can bind to these cells thanks to a protein called hemagglutinin (which is what H stands for in influenza strains like H1N1). Using this protein, the virus attaches itself to the cell and then enters the cell, which will send an alarm to your immune system.
Some flu symptoms come from an immune system response
When your immune system calculates that there is a virus inside your body, it will go excessively to get it out as quickly as possible.
"As part of this, the immune response will start to increase some of the symptoms you are feeling. Fever, muscle pain and pain are the result of some chemicals being secreted by the immune system to fight that virus, Adalja said, adding that a quarter of people with the flu have no symptoms. This does not mean that your immune system does not work, it is just how you clinically present the virus.
Basically, your body becomes a battlefield when you have the flu and the reason you feel so awful is from the war between the pathogen and your immune system, Adalja said.
The average lifespan of the virus is about a week
"Most healthy people have self-limited disease," Glatt said. “They get sick for a couple of days, or some don't get very sick at all. Other people get a mild illness or more moderate illness for a couple of days or a week or two at most. "
The usual flu in a healthy person usually does not require treatment, but some groups are at higher risk of developing complications from the flu including pregnant women, those with certain underlying illnesses, children under 12 months or adults over 65 years.
Gladly said for these groups in particular, it is important to make a time at a doctor as soon as the flu symptoms begin. They will be able to prescribe a suitable antiviral drug to help relieve the symptoms and clear the virus from the body as quickly as possible. (This is also good general advice, because doctors can prescribe medicines like Tamiflu to reduce the severity and length of the disease.)
In addition, get plenty of rest, drink fluids and monitor your symptoms. Although you may be miserable for a few days, your body will fight the flu as well as it can.