Flu Season and Respiratory Illness

How Flu Season Affects Upper Respiratory Illnesses

It is certainly that time of year when colds, sore throats, bronchitis, laryngitis and the flu run wild. The flu (also known as influenza) is an extremely contagious infection of the respiratory system. This includes the pharyngeal cavities (oropharynx or mouth area, nasopharynx or nose and area behind the nose, and the laryngopharynx or the throat or larynx). These pharyngeal areas are hit hard by the flu virus and it spreads quite easily from person to person when an individual sneezes, coughs or infects an objects by touching before washing their hands. Every year, anywhere from 5 to 21 percent of people in the U.S. are diagnosed with the flu virus. More mild cases of the flu typically last only a few days. However, more severe instances cause extreme sinus pressure (in the nasopharynx), nosebleeds, ear bleeds, pneumonia and even hospitalization. It is estimated that at least 35,000 people who contract the flu virus each year will die from it or complications related to it. You can notice the flu with the following symptoms:

  • Runny nose
  • Stuffy nose
  • Coughing
  • Fever
  • Chills or drastic changes in body temperature
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea

How it affects the upper respiratory system: Oropharynx (the mouth) becomes clammy, often dry, the tongue may have a white tint to it. The nasopharyx (the nose/nasal cavity) includes the nose and the area inside your head above the hard palate (roof of the mouth). The nose will be runny, irritated, may become sore, have nosebleeds due to dryness and irritation of the sinus cavities. The flu virus robs the body of water, which is why it is important to stay hydrated. The more hydrated you are the more you provide your body with resistance against the flu virus. The laryngopharynx is the throat area, similar to the nasal cavities this area becomes dry, prone to strep throat and hemorrhaging of the vocal folds. You become more susceptible to this when you do not hydrate as often during the flu. You should hydrate anyway but it is extremely important when you contract the virus. The vocal folds are the first to feel this. As moisture is robbed from your body the vocal folds dry up. As you continue to speak, sing, etc these dry folds become damaged leading to a sore throat. The flu is highly unpredictable concerning who it affects and how it will affect them. With new strands of this virus appearing every year it is important to make sure you stay as healthy as possible.

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