The–flu is a viral upper-respiratory infection that occurs yearly between October and April. There are three major strains – influenza A & B, and the H1N1 virus.
Virtually anyone can get the flu, even if they had it the previous year, because each strain changes slightly year to year.
The flu can be dangerous, especially in young children, those with weakened immune systems, and in the elderly, who become susceptible to pneumonia.
Common symptoms of the flu include:
- Sore throat
- Severe muscle and body aches
- Dry cough
- Loss of Appetite
- Joint pain
While it’s not possible to entirely avoid getting the flu, there are a few steps to take that can lower your chances:
1. Take Vitamin D. A study conducted found that people with low levels of Vitamin D were 36% more likely to get the flu. Take a Vitamin D supplement, or check to see if your current multivitamin includes an adequate supply of Vitamin D.
2. Wash hands frequently. Wash your hands frequently with soap and water, or use a hand sanitizer if water is not available.
3. Get a flu shot. Because of the change in flu strains from year to year, it’s impossible to develop a flu vaccine that is 100% effective. However, the vaccine does prove to be about 80% effective each year, and those that are in high risk groups should certainly get the vaccine and the earlier the better. High risk groups include:
• Those with heart and lung disease
• The elderly – especially those in nursing homes or other similar types of facilities, where viruses are easily spread. It should be noted that 90% of flu-related deaths occur in people age 65 and older.
• Health-care providers, to protect themselves as well as their patients
• People with chronic diseases, such as kidney disease, asthma, diabetes, or cancer
• Pregnant women who fall into any of the above groups
• Anyone caring for a child less than 6 months of age, because children under 6 months cannot get the flu vaccine.
Home Remedies For Flu
If you do get the flu, despite all the preventative measures, try the following remedies to ease the symptoms:
Rest is essential in recovering from the flu. Stay home from work if at all possible, and relax on the couch or in bed. Go to bed early, making sure to get at least 8 hours of sleep.
2. Take a pain reliever.
Aspirin, acetaminophen and ibuprofen can lower fever and ease headache pain. Those 21 years of age or younger should not take aspirin, as aspirin has been associated with Reye’s syndrome in young people, and especially in young people who take aspirin while having the flu. However, it’s important to note that young people should never take aspirin, because of the risk of Reye ’s syndrome, which can be fatal. It’s also important to note that while lowering fever will make you feel better, it will not speed up recovery time.
3. Drink plenty of fluids.
Non-caffeinated liquids such as water, juice and broth can help keep you hydrated and thin mucus. Broth and juice can also provide nutrients you may have lost due to lack of appetite.
4. Take Vitamin C.
Take Vitamin C, or if you already take Vitamin C, up your intake while you are ill to help strengthen the immune system.
5. Take a zinc supplement, or use zinc lozenges.
Zinc has been found to build up the immune system and improve white blood cell counts, speeding recovery time. A study of nursing home patients, which was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, found that residents with normal zinc levels cut their chance in half of developing pneumonia. Another great reason to take zinc is that it has anti-inflammatory effects, which can soothe a sore throat.
6. Use mentholatum ointment.
Apply a mentholatum ointment, such as Vicks Vapo Rub, to the chest to relieve cough and congestion. Make sure to wash the product off before going outdoors, as it opens up the pores.
7. Use an over-the-counter cough suppressant.
Cough drops or cough syrup can help reduce your cough, allowing you to rest better.
8. Gargle with warm salt water.
Dissolve ½ teaspoon salt in a cup of warm water and gargle to ease a sore throat.
9. Use a humidifier.
Viruses, such as influenza, survive better in a dry environment. Use either a warm or cool mist humidifier to increase the moisture in the air, help you feel better, and possibly shorten recovery time.
10. Use a vaporizer at night.
A vaporizer in the bedroom, especially when used with a product such as Vicks Vapo Steam, can add moisture to the air and help clear the sinuses, allowing you to rest more comfortably. Mentholatum is also helpful at relieving muscle aches, and the aroma can help clear sinus passages and ease a headache.
11. Take an expectorant.
Use an expectorant, such as guaifenesin, an ingredient found in Mucinex and many cough syrups. This will help to thin and loosen mucus and relieve chest congestion.
12. Drink ginger tea.
Ginger tea has been found to relieve many flu symptoms and perhaps shorten recovery time.
13. Drink a honey-lemon-water mixture.
Drink a cup of warm water with a teaspoon of honey and few drops of lemon juice to sooth a sore throat and loosen phlegm.
The flu is undoubtedly miserable, and unfortunately can last up to two weeks. These flu remedies should at least provide some comfort and allow you to get some well-needed rest. It’s important to note however, that complications, such as pneumonia, can occur with the flu. Children under age 5, pregnant women, those with medical conditions, and the elderly are the most likely to develop complications.
If you fit in these categories, you should see your doctor. Also, if you have trouble breathing, a high fever that lasts more than three days, or worsening symptoms, contact your doctor. If you experience a stiff neck, severe headache or are extremely short of breath, seek emergency medical attention.