Flu is a respiratory infection caused by a virus. It spreads through the air and enters your body through the nose. According to Medline Plus blog, 20% of Americans get flu each year. It is fatal to the elderly, newborns and those who suffer from chronic illnesses such as HIV.
Flu is also referred to as influenza and can be spread from one person to another through touch. It cannot be treated with antibiotics, the only way to prevent yourself from getting flu is to get vaccinated. The vaccine is not recommended for people with egg allergies.
Flu not only affects humans but also birds and other animals. Its symptoms last for a short time, one week or so. Some of the symptoms are fever, chills, nausea, and cough. However, unlike the common cold, the symptoms can be severe leading to death or more complications such as pneumonia.
What are the causes of flu?
The influenza virus causes flu. The virus has three subdivisions into three types A, B, and C. Influenza A and B are responsible for respiratory infections. They are responsible for hospitalization and death among people. Influenza c caused mild or no respiratory illness. It usually has fewer epidemics and its impact on the general public is not severe.
The viruses tend to mutate over time which enables them to evade the immune system. The host is therefore prone to changing flu virus all through its life. For example, the host develops antibodies against the flu virus, but the virus mutates over time and the first antibody can no longer recognize the new virus.
The infection soon affects the host as the first antibodies cannot fight the new virus.
What are the symptoms of flu?
Flu is a contagious disease. It spreads through the air. It usually affects the host within a short time. Some of the symptoms that you may experience are:
- A sore throat
- Body aches
- Nasal congestion
- Overall weakness
- Chills and sweating
- Persistent fever
- You may also experience gastrointestinal complications such as nausea and vomiting. Although kids are more prone to such complications. HINI infection tends to cause more severe symptoms. You can suffer from increased nausea and vomiting.
- Depending on your overall health and magnitude of infection you can suffer from swollen lymph nodes, severe muscle pains, dehydration, chest pains and severe headaches.
Complications of the flu
Flu symptoms usually persist for a week or two. But in the case of severe flu, you can develop pneumonia after a short time. People with flu can also suffer from sinus and ear infections. Other serious complications that you can develop are inflammation of the heart, muscles tissues, and the brain. It can also cause multiple organ failure such as the kidney.
Flu can also cause other chronic illnesses to get worse. For example, people suffering from asthma may experience constant asthma attacks. Those suffering from heart disease may also experience worse conditions.
- Age: the elderly and newborn kids are more prone to contacting flu
- Living conditions: people who live near hospitals and other health-care facilities are at higher risk of the disease
- Obesity: obese people with a BMI of 40 and above are also prone to the flu disease
- Chronic illnesses: those people with conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, asthma are more prone to flu complications and symptoms.
- Weakened immune system: people suffering from HIV have a weak immune system. They tend to be more susceptible to flu.
- Individuals that are undergoing cancer treatment.
- Athletes using steroids.
Treatment options for flu
Since the flu is caused by a virus, antibiotics cannot be used to treat it. They can only be used to address complications brought about by the infection. Painkillers may be used to alleviate headaches and body pains experienced.
The doctors administer antiviral drugs such as Tamiflu and Relenza. They help to alleviate the symptoms. When using them, symptoms may improve within a short period of time. Tamiflu is an oral medication while Relenza is inhaled through an inhaler.
Antiviral drugs help to alleviate the symptoms, but home remedies relieve mild flu. Some of the remedies include:
Flu symptoms such as vomiting can leave you dehydrated. It is wise to drink a lot of fluids to keep your body in check. Make sure to drink at least eight glasses of water per day. Fruit juices are also recommended. Stay away from caffeine as it can lead to more dehydration. According to William Schaffner, MD, chairman of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University School of medicine one should not drink alcohol. Its side effects make symptoms worse.
Breathing cold air can cause discomfort to the already sore throat and also facilitates nasal congestion. Humidifying the air will make the air moist, which helps to decongest the nose and ease a sore throat. You can sit in the shower and breathe in the moist air. Another excellent strategy is to use a vaporizer.
Nasal irrigation eases stuffiness and prevent one from developing a sinus infection. You can either use a saline squeeze bottle or a neti pot. Squeeze few drops of saline water through one nasal passage and let it out through the other. This thoroughly cleans the nasal passage.
Make a tent
To unclog clogged airways, boil water then pour it into a bowl. Bring the bowl close to your nose. Wrap your face with a towel, close your eyes and lean forward towards the hot water. Breathe deeply through the nose. For better results, add a few drops of peppermint to the water for extra decongestion.
Sip some soup
A study published in the Journal Chest confirmed that chicken soup is effective for alleviating upper respiratory infections. Some doctors concur with the above but others disagree. William Schaffner, of Vanderbilt University, says that it’s more of an emotional healing rather than a medical healing.