What is influenza (the “flu”)?

What is influenza (the “flu”)?

The flu is an influenza virus infection that affects the respiratory system – your lungs, throat and nose. It is different from stomach “flu”, which is the diarrhea and vomiting caused by different viruses (norovirus) in the digestive system.

Should I worry?

Since the flu is caused by a virus, it cannot be treated with antibiotics. Luckily, the flu usually clears up on its own without any clinical intervention, but occasionally complications from the flu arise and these complications can pose a serious health risk.

A few populations of people are at higher risk for serious complications from the flu, these include:

  • children under 5

  • adults over 65

  • residents in senior homes or other long-term care facilities

  • pregnant women and women who have recently given birth ( less than 2 weeks postpartum)

  • individuals with compromised immune systems (e.g. patients on long-term immunosuppression therapy and individuals with an autoimmune disorder, such as AIDS)

  • individuals with chronic illnesses (kidney disease, heart disease, asthma etc.)

  • obese individuals with a BMI > 4



The typical symptoms of influenza are very similar to those of a common cold (sore throat and runny nose), but a key contrast is the rate of symptom development. While cold symptoms usually develop slowly, flu symptoms are quick to manifest. Additionally, the intensity of symptoms is different. Many people notice that colds are easy to manage without over-the-counter medications, whereas flu symptoms are often challenging to overcome without the help of medications.

Some common signs of influenza include:

  • sore throat

  • runny nose

  • sinus congestion

  • headache

  • cold chills and sweats

  • aching muscles

  • a fever over 38 degrees Celsius

  • a dry and persistent cough

Steps to take

At DrugSmart Pharmacy, we recommend always getting your annual influenza vaccine. While they are not 100% effective, they are proven to be the best defence against the flu. Our pharmacists are fully injection-qualified and would be happy to provide you with more information on influenza vaccines during your visit!

We also recommend all individuals who are more susceptible to complications from influenza go see a physician when their symptoms first start. An acute anti-viral intervention within 48-hours of symptoms onset can significantly reduce the length of symptoms.

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