Flu: Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treating Flu
Influenza (also known as the flu) is a contagious respiratory illness caused by flu viruses. It can cause mild to severe illness, and at times can lead to death. The flu is different from a cold. The flu usually comes on suddenly.
It’s important to note that not everyone with flu will have a fever.
People who have the flu often feel some or all of these symptoms:
- Feveror feeling feverish/chills
- Sore throat
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Muscle or body aches
- Fatigue (tiredness)
- Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in children than adults.
How Flu Spreads
Most experts believe that flu viruses spread mainly by droplets made when people with flu cough, sneeze or talk. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby. Less often, a person might also get flu by touching a surface or object that has flu virus on it and then touching their own mouth, eyes or possibly their nose.
Period of Contagiousness
You may be able to pass on the flu to someone else before you know you are sick, as well as while you are sick. Most healthy adults may be able to infect others beginning 1 day before symptoms develop and up to 5 to 7 days after becoming sick. Some people, especially young children and people with weakened immune systems, might be able to infect others for an even longer time.
Onset of Symptoms
The time from when a person is exposed to flu virus to when symptoms begin is about 1 to 4 days, with an average of about 2 days.
How serious is flu?
In the majority of cases, flu is not serious – it is just unpleasant. For some people, however, there can be severe complications. This is more likely in very young children, in the elderly, and for individuals with other longstanding illness that can undermine their immune system.
The risk of experiencing severe flu complications is higher for certain people:
- Over 65s
- Babies or young children
- Pregnant women
- Individuals with heart or cardiovascular disease
- Those with chest problems, such as asthma or bronchitis
- Individuals with kidney disease
- People with diabetes
- People taking steroids
- Individuals undergoing treatment for cancer
- Those with longstanding diseases that reduce immune system function
- Some of the complications caused by influenza may include bacterial pneumonia, dehydration, and worsening of chronic medical conditions, such as congestive heart failure, asthma, or diabetes. Children may get sinus problems and ear infections.
Seasonal patterns of influenza and upper airway infection were found to be linked to a higher incidence of narcolepsy, by researchers from Stanford University School of Medicine. Narcolepsy is a neurological disease characterized by excessive sleepiness and sleep attacks at inappropriate moments, such as during work.
Home Remedies for the Flu
Flu symptoms can cause a world of misery, from fever and cough to sore throat, nasal congestion, aches, and chills. But there are ways to feel better.
Prescription antiviral drugs may ease symptoms of the flu when taken shortly after you get sick. In many cases, however, simple home remedies may be all you need for relief of mild to moderate flu symptoms.
Lemon has antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal and anti-inflammatory properties that work together to weaken the flu virus in the body as well as its annoying symptoms.
Squeeze a lemon in a glass of warm water and drink it. Do this three or four times daily until your symptoms subside.
Add the juice of one small lemon and one tablespoon each of honey and rum to a cup of boiling water. Let it steep for a few minutes. Drink this hot lemonade twice daily for a few days.
Put one chopped lemon (both skin and pulp) into one cup of boiling water. Let it steep for five minutes and then inhale the steam and drink this hot lemonade three or four times a day until your symptoms subside.
Ginger root (Zingiber officinale) is an herbaceous perennial plant that produces the spice known as ginger, which naturally combats nausea and vomiting, making it an excellent flu treatment. Ginger is so effective at reducing nausea that it is often used to combat the effects of chemotherapy. The National Cancer Institute funded a study involving 644 people who had experienced nausea after one cycle of chemotherapy. Participants were randomly assigned to receive a placebo or ginger in capsule form once a day for 6 days. Participants rated their nausea on a 7-point scale, where 1 equals no nausea and 7 equals the worst possible nausea. By the end of the first day, patients who took the ginger (equivalent of one-quarter and one-half teaspoon of fresh or dry ginger) rated their nausea as 1 or 2 points, meaning they had no or very slight nausea. In contrast, those who took a placebo rated their nausea as 4 to 5 points, meaning they had a lot of nausea.
For flu treatment, you can buy ginger root in capsule, powder or extracts. Follow the manufacturer’s dosing instructions. You can also buy organic ginger ale (with no corn syrup) or ginger teas; sip the ginger ale or tea throughout the day as tolerated.
Do not take ginger root for flu treatment if you take medications for high cholesterol, diabetes, high blood pressure or blood-thinners without consulting a healthcare professional.
The flu can leave you dehydrated, especially if have vomiting or diarrhea. So be sure to get enough fluids. Water is fine. So are fruit juices and electrolyte beverages. You may want to stay away from caffeinated drinks, because caffeine is a diuretic. Herbal tea with honey can soothe a sore throat. If you feel nauseated, try taking small sips of liquids — gulps might cause you to throw up. How can you be sure you’re getting enough fluid? Your urine should be pale yellow, almost colorless.
Hot Tea and tons of Homemade Bone
Broth-As hot liquids have been shown to stimulate the immune system and stop proliferation of the flu virus, they all continuously sipped hot herbal teas, homemade chicken soup and hot water with lemon juice and honey.
Honey is known to boost the immune system and help reduce symptoms of the common flu. It also has antibacterial and antimicrobial properties that can speed up the healing process.
- Simply take one tablespoon of honey with a glass of water several times a day.
- Mix one tablespoon of honey in one cup of hot water. If you want, add a few drops of lemon juice. This soothing drink will promote mucus flow and help reduce irritation and itchiness in your throat. Drink it two or three times a day.
- Mix equal amounts of honey and onion juice. Have one teaspoons of this mixture three times a day, until the flu is gone.
- You can also combine one teaspoon of honey with the juice extracted from 10 to 15 fresh basil leaves. Take this once a day.
Note: Honey should not be given to children under age 1.
Olive Leaf Extract
Olive leaf extract (OLE) is an extremely powerful immune booster and flu treatment. The main constituent of olive leaf is the phytochemical oleuropein, and it is loaded with pharmacological activities including: antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer activities, antimicrobial activity, antiviral activity, hypolipidemic (cholesterol-lowering) and hypoglycemic (blood sugar) effects. Olive leaf extract can be found in capsules, oils and teas. For flu treatment, the capsules and teas work best. When buying a supplement, be sure it contains oleuropein. Adults and children can sip the tea several times per day. For the capsule dose, follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
Wear wet socks to bed
Believe it or not, this soggy strategy can help ease a fever and clear congestion by drawing blood to the feet, which dramatically increases blood circulation. (Blood stagnates in areas of greatest congestion.) Best method: Warm your feet in hot water. Then soak a thin pair of cotton socks in cold water, wring them out and slip them on just before going to bed. Put a pair of dry wool socks over the wet ones. The wet socks should be warm and dry in the morning, and you should feel markedly better.
Be a couch potato
Listen to your body. If it’s telling you not to exercise, don’t. If it’s urging you to spend all day in bed, do. Don’t press on with daily chores even in the face of severe cold or flu symptoms. Rest is “another way of supporting the body’s ability to fight infection,” Blackwelder says.
Vitamin C is the ascorbic acid form can battle the flu and other viruses better than medication. For the kids, I started with 500 mg chewable doses and continued until they reached bowel tolerance (the point that it causes diarrhea) and then reduced to half doses every two hours. This amounted to about 3,000 mg total by the time they were symptom free. I continued 500 mg a day for several days to increase immunity. For my husband, I gave 500 mg every hour until bowel tolerance and half doses every hour after. This amounted to almost 5,000 mg for him by the time he was symptom free.
The healing properties of mustard can help treat flu symptoms to a great extent. It is loaded with antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties that help with a quick recovery.
Make a paste with one tablespoon of dry mustard, four tablespoons of flour, one egg white and a little bit of warm water. Smear the paste on a clean muslin cloth and then put another muslin cloth over it.Dab some olive oil on your chest and lay this mustard plaster on it. Remove after a few minutes and wash your chest with a clean cloth soaked in warm water. If it does not cause irritation then you can leave it on for up to 15 minutes.Mustard’s pungent odor helps unclog a stuffy nose, while the warmth improves blood circulation and eases congestion. Do this once daily or very four to six hours.
In a large bucket, add one tablespoon of mustard powder for every quart of hot water. Soak your feet in it for several minutes until the water cools. This draws blood to your feet and improves circulation, which helps relieve congestion and speed up the healing process. Do this twice daily.
Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that keep your gut healthy and strong, thus boosting your immune system. You should begin taking probiotics before you get the flu, especially if you have been in contact with someone who is ill. If your GI tract is not adequately defended, you are more likely to experience illness. Probiotics are especially helpful for children’s immunity, particularly during the winter months.
When selecting a probiotic, try to choose one that contains both the Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium species of bacteria. Take the dosage recommended on the manufacturer’s bottle and double up on your dose to reduce stomach upset – nausea, diarrhea, etc.
Breathe easy with steam
Pour just-boiled water into a large bowl. Drape a towel over the top of your head to trap the steam, and breathe in through your nose for five to 10 minutes. Don’t lower your face too close to the water or you risk scalding your skin or inhaling vapours that are too hot. To make steam inhalations more effective, add five to 10 drops thyme oil or eucalyptus oil to the water. Keep your eyes closed as you breathe in the steam, since both essential oils and steam may irritate your eyes. On the go? Dab a few tissues with eucalyptus oil and hold them under your nose whenever you feel congested.
Organic Apple Cider Vinegar
Organic Apple Cider Vinegar with “the mother”-One Tablespoon in 8 oz water every three hours. This alkalizes the body and kills any yeast that can be feeding infection.
Garlic can work wonders as a remedy for influenza due to its natural antiviral, antifungal, antiseptic and antibacterial properties. It also contains the immune-boosting compound allicin that helps relieve various flu symptoms.
Chop or crush two or three fresh garlic cloves and put them in one cup of hot water. Let it steep for 10 minutes, strain and then drink it like a tea. Do this three or four times a day.
You can also chew one raw garlic clove or swallow one teaspoon of garlic juice with water several times a day.
Flu Treatment Tips
Drink water as often as you can. If you have nausea or vomiting, take frequent small sips. Look for signs of dehydration; seek medical attention right away if you experience any of these symptoms, especially in children: dry skin, dry mouth, thirst, decreased urination, dark-colored urine, heart palpitations, muscle cramping, headaches or decreased sweating.
Keep taking your daily multivitamin. Adults may need to take additional zinc, vitamin C, and vitamin D3 to boost immunity for effective flu treatment. You’ll also need B vitamins to help fight fatigue and weakness.
Keep a bottle of eucalyptus oil or Vicks VapoRub® at hand. For helping to clear congestion, spread some of the oil or rub into a tissue or washrag; hold it up near your mouth and nose and inhale several times per day.
Add organic honey and lemon to herbal tea to soothe a sore throat.
When to Seek Emergency Help
If you have any of the following symptoms, you should seek emergency help and contact a physician right away:
Dehydration (Infants and toddlers experience dehydration faster than adults and need to see a doctor right away if they are vomiting, have diarrhea or are not eating or drinking.)
Change in mental status (confusion, lethargy, etc.)
No improvement after 5 days in adults, 3 days in children
You have another medical condition or are taking medications that weaken your immune system (cancer, rheumatoid condition, etc.).
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