There are several types of influenza, or flu virus. Influenza strains are classified based on their protein composition, and include types A, B, and C influenza. There are a number of influenza subtypes under each letter category.
This may all sound confusing, but we’ll break it down for you. Of all the types of influenza, type A is the most common and the most severe. It is the type responsible for the global epidemics of 1918, 1957, and 1968. If you get a flu shot in the fall, you are being vaccinated against type A flu. By the way, swine flu, a big concern presently, is one of the influenza subtypes that falls under type A flu.
All influenza strains have pretty similar symptoms, including fever, muscle aches, headache, fatigue, sore throat, coughing, and sneezing. Some influenza strains also cause nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Symptoms may be more severe with some strains than with others.
The CDC says that the best way to prevent the flu and related complications (like pneumonia) is to get a flu shot. You have to get a flu shot each year because the flu virus mutates. Last year’s vaccine won’t protect you this year. The annual flu shot actually protects against several types of influenza, including a couple of type A influenza subtypes and a strain of type B influenza. It won’t protect you against all types of flu, just the most common types for that year. The regular flu shot will not protect you against swine flu. You have to get a separate vaccine for that.
There is also a homeopathic remedy you can use to protect yourself against all types of influenza. It is called Instant Immunity, and you take it during the flu season. We’ll tell you more about that in a moment.
You can also help protect yourself against all influenza strains by keeping your distance from people who are sick and by washing your hands frequently. You see, the flu is very contagious. What usually happens is that a person with the flu coughs or sneezes, spraying tiny droplets of the virus into the air. If you breathe in these droplets, you can catch the flu. If a person with the flu coughs on a surface like a doorknob or telephone and you touch that surface and then touch your mouth or nose, you can also catch the flu. That’s why washing your hands often helps protect you.
Treatment is similar for all types of influenza. There are antiviral medications that can help speed the recovery process by preventing the virus from replicating itself. You will need a prescription from your doctor to get these medications. However, in most cases, people will recover from the flu without antiviral medications. The virus simply runs its course in a week or so. But the medications can shorten the duration of the illness.
There are a number of over-the-counter medications that are fairly effective at relieving the symptoms of all different influenza strains. Ask your doctor or pharmacist about which over-the-counter medications would be best for you.
See your doctor in the fall if you want to get a flu shot. If you do get the flu, you may not need medical attention, as the virus usually runs its course in a week or so without intervention. However, in rare cases the flu can be very serious, even deadly, so do see your doctor if you have any concerns. If you have a high fever, if your symptoms last more than one week, if you have trouble breathing, or if you have any pre-existing conditions, you should definitely see a doctor.
More than the types of influenza on our symptoms of the flu page
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