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.


See: Arm, shoulder, neck, elbow, forearm low back & plantar fascia pain. Hay fever. Stomach flu. Treated with Bisoma and Tetrasoma acupuncture

Is there any cure for flu?

Each year, thousands of people are impacted by the flu or influenza. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that the flu virus has caused 9 to 45 million illnesses, 140,000 to 810,000 hospitalizations, and 12,000 to 61,000 deaths per year in the US since 2010.[1] These statistics are going to be much higher when you take into account the global figures. In fact, according to the CDC estimations, in the 2019-2020 flu season, as of April 4, 2020, there have been between 24,000 to 62,000 deaths due to the flu. Globally, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 290,000 to 650,000 people die each year due to the flu.[2,3]

The flu, short for influenza, is a type of contagious respiratory illness caused by various viruses that infect the nose and throat and may even spread to the lungs. The flu is easily transmitted from person to person, and people who have the flu remain extremely contagious for at least the first three to four days after being infected.[4]

While there is a flu vaccine, but there is no cure for the flu. Getting the vaccine also does not guarantee that you won't get the flu because many viruses cause the flu, and the vaccine provides protection only against some of them. However, many natural remedies may help relieve the symptoms of the flu. These remedies may also shorten the duration of the illness. Here are some of the best home remedies for the flu.

See: Acupuncture for flu

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.

See: Active immunity vs. passive immunity in Ayurveda

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 same 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 person 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.

See: How to get over the flu fast

Flu Tests

Although there are specific lab tests to identify the Influenza virus strain from samples from the 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.

See: Ayurvedic herbs for immune system

Natural flu remedies

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 the 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 Natural 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.

See: Boost your immune system with Ayurveda

Best home remedies for flu

Here are some of the best home remedies for the flu.

1. Chicken Soup

 Chicken soup is not only comfort food for when you are sick, but it also helps alleviate the flu symptoms. Studies have discovered that chicken soup can help slow down the movement of neutrophils in the body. A type of white blood cells, neutrophils, keeps the body safe from infection. When these white blood cells move slowly, they remain more concentrated in those areas of the body that require immediate healing.[5] 

Chicken soup can also help ease the flu symptoms in your head and chest because a steaming bowl of chicken soup can open up congested sinuses. Chicken soup boosts the speed of mucus movement in the nose. This happens because it is a hot fluid, leading to the dilation of the nose's blood vessels, increasing the blood flow, and flushing out the mucus. This helps relieve congestion and pressure in the sinuses.[6]

Furthermore, chicken soup is an effective remedy for alleviating the symptoms of upper respiratory infections while also working to keep you well-hydrated. The sodium and water present in chicken soup keep you hydrated. As per a survey of family physicians by the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), 87 percent of doctors agree that chicken soup is second only to water to improve hydration during a cold or flu.[7]

2. Increase your intake of zinc

 Many people are unaware of the healing properties of zinc supplementation. Research has shown that taking zinc supplements when you have a cold or flu can help decrease the severity and duration of symptoms.[8] It is believed that zinc helps prevent the replication of rhinovirus in the body. Rhinovirus is one of the viruses that can cause the common cold. 

 You can consume zinc in various forms, such as a tablet or syrup. However, it is necessary to follow the dosage recommendations on the package since the overconsumption of zinc can cause stomach ache and nausea. Excess intake of zinc can also impair the immune system response.[9]

Zinc is readily available online and in pharmacies, and you can take zinc either as a supplement or as a nasal spray. People using a zinc nasal spray, though, may temporarily lose their sense of smell.

Taking a multivitamin that contains zinc during the flu season will also help. If you have a balanced diet, you will automatically be getting your daily required level of zinc. Some foods that contain high levels of zinc include:

·        Chickpeas

·        Red meat

·        Lentils

·        Shellfish

·        Dairy

·        Eggs

·        Beans

·        Nuts

3. Load up on vitamin D

Vitamin D3 is a useful supplement for reducing or preventing the risk of getting the flu or cold. Studies have found an association between taking vitamin D supplements and decreasing the frequency of catching colds in university students.[10]  Several epidemiologic studies have found that people with high vitamin D levels generally have a lower risk of upper respiratory tract infections.[11]

4. Honey

Honey is known for its potent antimicrobial properties, so it is used to fight against many viruses and bacteria. One study found that honey was useful in relieving the symptom of coughing in a cold or flu in children above the age of one year. The study found that giving children just 10 grams of honey before bedtime can decrease the severity of nighttime coughing. It is important to know that children younger than one year should never be given honey due to the risk of botulism.[12]

Drinking honey mixed in a tea with lemon can also relieve pain from sore throat. Unfortunately, it is not clear exactly how honey helps in sore throats and coughing. However, it is believed to be because of the texture of honey. Honey is soft and thick, meaning it has a soothing effect on irritated throats when you have the flu.

5. Use garlic

Garlic has powerful antiviral and antibacterial properties that can help fight off many symptoms of the flu. A study discovered that people who regularly took a garlic supplement for three months experienced fewer colds than those who did not take the supplement.[13,14]

 Garlic has been used as a home remedy for the flu and common cold since ancient times. It is possible to have raw garlic, mix cooked garlic into your meals, or take a supplement of garlic. Garlic contains allicin, a compound that has antimicrobial properties. This is why incorporating garlic in any form in your diet or as a supplement helps reduce the severity of your flu or cold symptoms. Some research also shows that garlic can help you fall sick in the first place.[15]

 Further research can determine the possible flu-fighting benefits of garlic. In the meantime, using garlic as a home remedy for the flu may help.

See: Immune boosting foods

Summary

There are many other natural or home remedies that people use for treating their flu symptoms. You may find that using these home remedies may help alleviate the flu symptoms and cut down the duration of the illness, making it pass more quickly. While following these home remedies, also make sure to get plenty of rest, stay warm, drink plenty of fluids, mostly water, and, if needed, take over-the-counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen to relieve any aches and pain. Using a humidifier may also help with the congestion.

See: Best vitamins for immune system

References

1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2020. Burden Of Influenza. [online] Available at: [Accessed 12 October 2020].

2. Who.int. 2020. Influenza (Seasonal). [online] Available at: [Accessed 12 October 2020].

3. Clayville, LR, 2011. Influenza update: a review of currently available vaccines. Pharmacy and Therapeutics, 36(10), p.659.

4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2020. How Flu Spreads. [online] Available at: [Accessed 12 October 2020].

5. Rennard, B.O., Ertl, R.F., Gossman, G.L., Robbins, RA, and Rennard, S.I., 2000. Chicken soup inhibits neutrophil chemotaxis in vitro. Chest, 118(4), pp.1150-1157.

6. Hopkins, A.B., 2003. Chicken soup cure may not be a myth. Nurse Practitioner, 28(6), p.16.

7. WIRE, B., 2020. Chicken Soup: Just What The Doctor Ordered To Improve Hydration When You Have A Cold. [online] Businesswire.com. Available at: [Accessed 12 October 2020].

8. Singh, M. and Das, R.R., 2013. Zinc for the common cold. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, (6).

9. Chandra, R.K., 1984. Excessive intake of zinc impairs immune responses. Jama, 252(11), pp.1443-1446.

10. Goodall, E.C., Granados, A.C., Luinstra, K., Pullenayegum, E., Coleman, B.L., Loeb, M. and Smieja, M., 2014. Vitamin D 3 and gargling for the prevention of upper respiratory tract infections: a randomized controlled trial. BMC infectious diseases, 14(1), p.273.

11. Self-Care for Common Colds: The Pivotal Role of Vitamin D, Vitamin C, Zinc, and Echinacea in Three Main Immune Interactive Clusters (Physical Barriers, Innate and Adaptive Immunity) Involved during an Episode of Common Colds—Practical Advice on Dosages and on the Time to Take These Nutrients/Botanicals in order to Prevent or Treat Common Colds

12. Cohen, H.A., Rozen, J., Kristal, H., Laks, Y., Berkovitch, M., Uziel, Y., Kozer, E., Pomeranz, A. and Efrat, H., 2012. Effect of honey on nocturnal cough and sleep quality: a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled study. Pediatrics, 130(3), pp.465-471. 

13. Lissiman, E., Bhasale, A.L., and Cohen, M., 2014. Garlic for the common cold. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, (11).

14. Gebreyohannes, G. and Gebreyohannes, M., 2013. Medicinal values of garlic: A review. International Journal of Medicine and Medical Sciences, 5(9), pp.401-408.

15. Bayan, L., Koulivand, P.H. and Gorji, A., 2014. Garlic: a review of potential therapeutic effects. Avicenna journal of phytomedicine, 4(1), p.1.

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

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

18. Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database.

19. 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

20. Rennard, B. Chest, October 2000.

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

22. NIH. “Flu and Colds: In-Depth.”

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

See: Immune System Innate vs. Adaptive Immunity

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