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Flu Incubation Period

Flu Incubation Period

Mostly, the flu incubation period ranges from 1 to 4 days, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This article outlines some common facts about incubation period, and facts related to the flu.
Rajib Singha
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The flu, common name for influenza, is a viral infection of the respiratory system. It is more severe than the common cold, lasts longer, and is associated with severe health complications. People who are generally in good shape, can manage influenza without seeing a doctor. However, the infection may cause severe complications in young kids, the elderly, people with chronic health conditions or a weakened immune system, and pregnant women.

The following tells you about the importance of determining the incubation period of an infection, and how it is associated with the contagiousness of an infection. It also tells you about the common symptoms of influenza and its treatment measures.

What is Incubation Period?
When a pathogenic organism invades your body, it takes some time before it starts showing any symptoms. This period that elapses between the exposure to the infection and the appearance of the first symptom, is known as the incubation period of the infection. In case of the flu, it is usually 1-4 days; on an average, 2 days.

Why is Incubation Period Important?
The incubation period of an infection gives you an idea about the time when you will begin to experience any symptoms. But, since you cannot determine whether or not you are being exposed to an infection, knowing about its incubation period may not be so important. Until you experience any symptoms, you would not know that you have been infected. The knowledge of the incubation period of an infectious disease, however, is important when seen from the perspective of medical studies. It helps scientists to carry out investigations to determine the transmission and control of infectious diseases, developing treatment plans, and setting an early prognosis. The same also provides an insight into clinical and public health practices.

Incubation Period and Contagiousness of the Flu
The flu is a highly contagious viral infection. An infected person is contagious from 1 day before he/she starts showing any symptoms. In other words, the flu is contagious even during its incubation period. So, if you have this infection, you may pass it to other people before you realize that you are sick.

A person with influenza may remain contagious 5-7 days after getting infected. Children, however, may be contagious for as long as a week or more than that. In some cases, an infected person may not show any symptoms, but can still pass the infection to others.

Flu symptoms, although similar to those of common cold, are more severe. Also, what separates flu symptoms from cold symptoms, is the sudden or abrupt onset of the former. Commonly, influenza is indicated by:
• A high fever (over 100 F)
• Sore throat
• Non-productive cough
• Sneezing
• Watery eyes
• Headache
• Fatigue
• Loss of taste and smell
• Runny nose
• Feeling less hungry than usual
• Perspiration
• Foul breath
• Muscle ache; back and limbs hurt the most
• Ear infection, nausea and vomiting in small children

If you are otherwise healthy, then following a few self-care measures at home are good enough to manage the disease.

Take ample rest. Resting will help your immune system fight off the infection.

Keep yourself hydrated. Take plenty of fluids including water, juice, hot soups, broth, etc. If your urine is pale yellow, then it means you are drinking enough liquid.

Take over-the-counter medicines to lower fever, and reduce body ache. However, exercise caution with medication in case of small children or teenagers.

Stay home and keep warm.

Treatment for influenza, may involve antiviral medication in case of people who are more susceptible to develop complications from the infection. Antivirals may not cure the disease, but may help patients feel better by relieving the symptoms, get better sooner, and cut the risks of serious complications.

One-time Flu Vaccine
Flu vaccinations are changed every year to combat the different strains of the flu virus. However, according to a Georgia State University Researcher, scientists may not have to do so, any more. Sang-Moo Kang and his team have deduced a method to create what is known as a one-time flu vaccine. Kang says that, using this vaccine is safer for people who are immunocompromised, the elderly, and young children, than the vaccines currently in use.

Annual flu vaccination is the best defense against flu virus. You may get in touch with your health care department regarding the peak flu season, so that you can get yourself vaccinated before this period. This will give your body sufficient time to build antibodies against the virus. No vaccination provides 100% protection, especially in older adults. However, it does help reduce the risk of contracting the infection, reduce its symptoms, and its complications.

Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is solely for educating the reader. It is not intended to be a substitute for the advice of a medical expert.