The flu is an infectious and contagious disease that mainly affects the respiratory tract and is caused by the Influenza virus types A and B.


It is an extremely frequent disease in the population and occurs due to epidemics or outbreaks that depend on the climate and the time of year in each region.

Flu symptoms

The symptoms of the flu are similar in patients of any age and are basically: fever, chills, cough, nasal congestion, abundant and clear nasal mucus, muscle aches, headache, tiredness, general weakness, lack of appetite and in some cases nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.

Flu alarm symptoms in adults

There are symptoms in the adult that indicate the urgency of medical attention, such as: shortness of breath, pain in the chest or abdomen, sudden dizziness or vertigo, confusion, persistent vomiting or progressive worsening of fever or cough.

What are the preventive measures for influenza in adults?

  • Physical measures to avoid contagion:
    • Wash hands frequently
    • Avoid rubbing your eyes
    • Avoid contact with people who are sick with the flu
    • Wear a mask if you are taking care of someone sick with the flu
  • Vaccination:
    • It should be annual, since the influenza virus strains change year after year.
    • In many countries vaccination is reserved for high-risk people, however, consult your doctor to evaluate the possibility of getting it.
    • Avoid the appearance of flu and especially complications.

What is the treatment of flu in adults?

General measures:


  • Drink abundant liquids.
  • Try a balanced diet.
  • Avoid drinks alcoholic and coffee.
  • Repose.
  • Restrict contact with other people and decrease spread.
  • Use of face mask on case from visits.


Symptomatic treatment


  • Vitamins and minerals: use of Vitamin C is recommended in all cases.
  • Topical nasal decongestants: such as oxymetazoline or xylometazoline. Be careful with hypertensive patients or with cardiac arrhythmias.
  • Nasal decongestants (oral administration)
  • Cough medicines or antitussives: there are several used such as dextromethorphan, codeine, bromexine or cysteine.
  • Expectorant medications, to improve mucus or productive cough, can be used in combinations with acetaminophen and decongestants
  • Natural products, such as those derived from Echinacea or elderberry.
  • Antiallergics: such as loratadine, accompanied or not by pseudoephedrine or phenylephedrine. Avoid in hypertensive people or heart disease.
  • Inhaled corticosteroids: beclomethasone or mometasone.


Specific treatment

Based on antiviral drugs, which eliminate the virus and reduce the effects in already complicated cases or those with a high risk of complications.

They are not used regularly but are indicated by the doctor only if necessary.

For information, among the antivirals used in influenza we have two groups:

  • Amantadine or rimantadine, which are only effective in influenza type A and are less used.
  • Zanamivir and Oseltamivir, more widely used, are used for both type A and B influenza viruses. Furthermore, when indicated early, it avoids the appearance of complications.

Factors risk Y complications

There are certain known conditions that are considered high risk, people who should be more careful and avoid contagion at times of flu outbreaks because they can be more easily complicated. In these cases, precautionary measures should be taken with more care.

  • Asthma
  • Chronic neurological diseases
  • Hematological diseases
  • Chronic lung diseases such as COPD or pulmonary emphysema
  • Mellitus diabetes
  • Heart conditions such as heart failure and coronary or ischemic disease.
  • Kidney failure with or without dialysis
  • Chronic liver diseases, for example cirrhosis
  • Severe obesity
  • Compromise of the immune or defense system, such as people with HIV or cancer.
  • People who take steroids continuously
  • Over 65 years old
  • Pregnant or 2 to 2 weeks after delivery
  • People who live in nursing homes, elderly or chronically ill

Complications of the flu in adults

The complications of influenza in adults are basically respiratory and require hospitalization and specific treatment with antivirals.

  • Pneumonia or lung infection due to the Influenza virus.
  • Bacterial pneumonia, which appears added to or secondary to the virus.
  • Pneumonia caused by rare germs in patients with special medical conditions or low defenses.
  • Decompensated chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

It is very important to know what are the main measures that we can take in the case of influenza in adults and to recognize if there are risk factors to take extreme preventive measures and quickly consult a specialist.

By Dr. Eric Jackson

Dr. Eric Jackson provides primary Internal Medicine care for men and women and treats patients with bone and mineral diseases, diabetes, heart conditions, and other chronic illnesses.He is a Washington University Bone Health Program physician and is a certified Bone Densitometrist. Dr. Avery is consistently recognized in "The Best Doctors in America" list.

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