Flu
3 Case Studies
1 Research

Flu symptoms can make you feel miserable. But you can generally treat yourself at home with home remedies. Herbal teas and other herbal preparations can be taken to boost the immune system, for antiviral activity, and to alleviate symptoms. Rest and plenty of clear fluid intake also help.

What is flu or influenza?

Usually referred to as flu or influenza, flu is a highly infectious respiratory disease. Its title comes from the Italian word for "influence," because people in eighteenth-century Europe believed that the condition resulted from the influence of awful weather. We now know that influenza is caused by a virus. 


The influenza virus attacks your respiratory system -- your nose, throat, and lungs. Influenza is usually known as the flu, but it is not precisely like stomach "flu" viruses that cause diarrhea and nausea.

For most people, influenza resolves by itself. But occasionally, influenza and its complications can be fatal. Some people are at higher risk of developing flu complications:

• Individuals with weakened immune systems

• Young kids under age 5, and especially those under 12 months

• Adults older than age 65

• Individuals who are very obese, with a body mass index (BMI) of 40 or higher

• Residents of nursing homes and other long-term maintenance facilities

• Pregnant women and girls around two weeks postpartum

• Individuals who have chronic diseases, such as asthma, heart disease, kidney disease, liver disease, and diabetes

Although the annual Influenza vaccine is not 100 percent effective, it is still your best defense against the flu.


Influenza is more painful than the common cold. Influenza outbreaks occur abruptly, and the disease spreads rapidly. The yearly death toll attributable to influenza and its complications averages 20,000 from the USA. In the Spanish flu pandemic of 1919, the death toll reached 40 million globally. Approximately 500,000 of these deaths happened in North America.

There are three types of flu viruses, identified as A, B, and C. Influenza type A can infect some animal species, including humans, pigs, horses, and birds, but only humans are unlucky enough to be infected by types B and C. Influenza type A is responsible for many influenza cases, while infection with types B and C viruses are far somewhat less common and cause a milder illness.

In the USA, 90% of deaths from influenza occur among men older than 65. Flu-related deaths have increased substantially in the USA since the 1970s, mainly due to the aging of the US population. Moreover, elderly persons are vulnerable since they're often reluctant to be vaccinated against the flu.


How long are you contagious with flu?

Flu viruses travel through the air in small drops. This occurs when someone with the disease coughs, sneezes, or talks. You may inhale these tiny droplets directly, or you may get the germs out of an object - like a door handle - and then move them to your eyes, mouth, or nose.

Those carrying the virus are likely contagious from the very day symptoms appear until about five days after symptoms start. Those with weak immune systems may remain contagious for a slightly longer time.

Influenza viruses are constantly changing, with new breeds appearing regularly. If you've had flu before, your body has made antibodies to fight that specific strain of this virus. If potential influenza viruses are like those you have encountered before, either with the disease or by getting vaccinated, these antibodies may avoid infection or reduce its severity.

But antibodies against influenza viruses you have encountered in the past cannot protect you from new flu strains, which can be quite different immunologically from what you had before.

The victim develops a range of symptoms within 1-4 days after infection. Symptoms are often sudden, even though the sequence can be very variable. They comprise the onset of headache, sore throat, dry cough, and chills, nasal congestion, fatigue, malaise, overall achiness, and a fever, which may run as high as 104°F (40°C). Flu victims feel extremely tired, weak, and might not return to their normal energy levels for many days.

Influenza complications come from bacterial infections of the lower respiratory tract. Indications of a secondary respiratory disease often appear as the individual seems to be recovering. These signs include high fever, extreme chills, chest pains related to breathing, and a productive cough or sinus discharge with thick yellow-green sputum. If these symptoms appear, medical therapy is often needed. Other secondary infections, such as ear or sinus infections, may also require medical intervention. Heart and lung problems and other chronic ailments can be aggravated by flu, which is a specific concern with older people.

What are the signs & symptoms of flu?

Initially, the flu may look like a common cold with a runny nose, sneezing, and sore throat. But the common cold usually develops gradually, whereas the flu will come on unexpectedly. And even though cold may be a nuisance, you generally feel a lot worse with the flu.

Symptoms of the flu include:

• Fever over 100.4 F (38 C)

• Aching muscles

• Chills and sweats

• headache

• Dry, persistent cough

• Fatigue and weakness

• Nasal congestion

• Sore throat

• Neurological problems as confusion or delirium. The syndrome is mostly related to the use of aspirin to ease flu symptoms in children.

Flu Tests

Although there are specific lab tests to identify the Influenza virus strain from samples from nose or throat, doctors typically rely on a set of symptoms for diagnosis. A variety of influenza tests are available to detect influenza viruses in respiratory specimens. The most common is known as "rapid influenza diagnostic tests (RIDTs)." RIDTs work by discovering the areas of the virus (antigens) that stimulate an immune reaction. These tests can provide results within about 10-15 minutes, but aren't as precise as other influenza tests.

Consequently, you could still have the flu, although your rapid test result is negative. Other flu tests are known as "rapid molecular assays" that detects the genetic material of the virus. Quick molecular assays produce results in 15-20 minutes and are more precise than RIDTs.

Flu natural treatments


Drinking plenty of clear fluids and eating a  healthy diet is a good start. You can try the chicken soup with ginger, scallions, and rice noodles - known to be nutritious and with healing powers. Resting and sleeping are quite essential to permit the body to resist infection. Gargling with warm salted water helps soothe the itchiness of a sore throat. Some vaporized eucalyptus oil or Vicks VapoRub will relieve breathing and aiding sleep. Implementing Vicks ointment over chest and back will help and accelerate recovery. 


Ayurvedic & Herbal therapy

Herbal teas and other herbal preparations can be taken to boost the immune system, for antiviral activity, and to alleviate symptoms. These herbs are used to treat flu:

- Ginger (Zingiber Officinalis) reduces pain and fever, has a sedative effect, settles the stomach, and soothes the cough.

- Forsythia (Forsythia suspensa) fruit could be taken as a tea for its antiinflammatory, fever-reducing, and antimicrobial properties.

- Honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica) blossom can be taken as a tea for its antiinflammatory, fever-reducing, and antimicrobial properties.

- Anise Seed (Pimpinella anisum) may be added to tea to expel phlegm, cause perspiration, ease nausea, and facilitate acidity & gas.

- Echinacea (Echinacea purpurea), in clinical trials, reduced flu symptoms such as sore throat, chills, sweating, fatigue, body aches, and headaches. The typical dose is 500 mg thrice on the first day, then 250 mg four times per day after that.

- Elder (Sambucus nigra) has antiviral activity, increases perspiration, reduces inflammation, and reduces nasal discharge. In a study, elderberry extract decreased flu symptoms within two days, whereas the placebo took six days. The typical dose is 500 mg of infusion daily. 

- Goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis) has fever-reducing, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and antitussive properties. The typical dose is 125 mg three to four times each day. Goldenseal should not be taken for at least one week.

- Schisandra (Schisandra Chinensis) helps the body immunity.

- Grape (Vitis vinifera) seed extract has anti-inflammatory properties. 

- Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus globulus) essential oils with vaporizer can help clear nasal and chest congestion.

- Boneset Infusion (Eupatorium perfoliatum) alleviates aches and fever.

- Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) relieves chills.


Other remedies

- Acupuncture and acupressure are believed to stimulate natural immunity, relieve nasal congestion and headaches, fight fever, and calm coughs, based upon the points used.

- A homeopathic remedy called Oscillococcinum could be obtained at the very first sign of flu symptoms and replicated.

Other homeopathic remedies vary according to the specific influenza symptoms present. Gelsemium (Gelsemium sempervirens) is suggested to combat weakness accompanied by chills, a headache, and nasal congestion. Bryonia (Bryonia alba) can be used in the treatment of muscle aches, headaches, and a dry cough. For instance, chills, hoarseness, and achy joints, poison ivy (Rhus Toxicodendron) is advised. 

- Hydrotherapy can be used to speed recovery from the flu. While supervised, the individual should take a bath as hot as he/she can tolerate and stay in the bathtub for 20-30 minutes. While in the tub, the patient drinks a cup of yarrow or elderflower tea to cause perspiration. A cold cloth on the forehead can lower the temperature. The patient can then gets into bed and cover up with layers of blankets to cause more perspiration.

- Supplemental vitamins are usually recommended for treating influenza and comprise vitamin C, vitamin E, selenium, and beta-carotene. 

- Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) uses combinations of herbs to prevent flu and to relieve symptoms once someone has fallen ill. There are numerous unique recipes for all these remedies, but most contain ginger and Japanese honeysuckle as well as other ingredients.


Following appropriate treatment guidelines, healthy individuals under the age of 65 usually have no long term consequences related to flu infection. The elderly or the chronically ill are at higher risk for secondary infection and other complications, but they are also able to enjoy complete healing.

Home remedies for flu prevention

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends an influenza vaccine each year before flu season begins.  Vaccines should be received a few weeks before the beginning of the flu season to enable the body enough time to establish immunity.

Each year's influenza vaccine has three virus strains, which are the most likely to be encountered in the upcoming flu season. The virus strains used to create the vaccine are inactivated and won't cause illness. 

The following dietary supplements may be taken to help prevent influenza:

Elderberry Prevents flu virus from infecting cells.

Astragalus: 250-500 mg per day.

Multivitamins with zinc.

Vitamin C, 500 mg.

Echinacea; In the first sign of malaise or disease, take 3--5 ml of tincture or two tablets three or four times per day for three to ten days.

According to Mayo Clinic, flu symptoms generally begin about a couple of days after your exposure to the virus and might appear to hit you unexpectedly. Among healthy individuals, flu symptoms vary in severity. Signs and symptoms vary from a sore throat and runny nose to fever, chills, and muscle aches.


Home remedies for flu

Flu symptoms can make you feel miserable. But you can generally treat yourself at home instead of going to your physician. 


• Take Tylenol or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others) to decrease fever or muscle aches. 

• Drink plenty of clear fluids.

• Rest and sleep as needed

Stay home from work, school, and other people areas for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone to prevent infecting other individuals. Most people start to feel better within a week of getting infected with the influenza virus, though coughing may persist for another one or two weeks.


References




1. Joslin, P. Advances in Therapy, July/August 2001.

2. National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine: "Echinacea," "In the News: Zinc and the Common Cold."

3. Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database.

4. Mathes, A., & Bellanger, R. (2010). Herbs and Other Dietary Supplements: Current Regulations and Recommendations for Use to Maintain Health in the Management of the Common Cold or Other Related Infectious Respiratory Illnesses. Journal of Pharmacy Practice, 23(2), 117–127. https://doi.org/10.1177/0897190009358711

5. Rennard, B. Chest, October 2000.

6. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. “Garlic for the Common Cold.”

7. NIH. “Flu and Colds: In Depth.”

8. Oregon State University, The Linus Pauling Institute Micronutrient Information Center: "Vitamin C."

9. Braun H, Von andrian-werburg J, Malisova O, et al. Differing Water Intake and Hydration Status in Three European Countries-A Day-to-Day Analysis. Nutrients. 2019;11(4). doi: 10.3390/nu11040773

10. Lissiman E, Bhasale AL, Cohen M. Garlic for the common cold. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2014;(11):CD006206. doi: 10.1002/14651858

11. Ulbricht C, Basch E, Cheung L, et al. An evidence-based systematic review of elderberry and elderflower (Sambucus nigra) by the Natural Standard Research Collaboration. J Diet Suppl. 2014;11(1):80-120. doi: 10.3109/19390211.2013.859852

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