Most articles about the flu tell us how to prevent or avoid an infection, but there is very little information on what to do when we actually get infected. Common sense tells us that we ought to see a doctor and most of us heard about Tamiflu®. This article describes the flu symptoms and suggests a few simple steps to ease the discomfort of infection.
Every year tens of thousands of people die from the influenza infection. Most victims are either very young, or very old. People with compromised immune system also succumb to the disease. Currently two strains of influenza are circulating in the United States - the seasonal flu and the H1N1 also called the swine flu. A third, highly lethal H5N1 influenza, also known as the bird flu, is being closely monitored in Asia.
Influenza, commonly called the flu, is a highly contagious viral infection affecting the respiratory tract - the nose, throat, and the bronchial tubes. The symptoms can range from mild to deadly and include:
- sore throat
- nasal congestion or running nose
- overall body ache
- in some cases diarrhea and vomiting - symptoms that may be severe if it is a swine flu virus infection
These symptoms may also occur with the common cold which, although as uncomfortable as the flu, is much less threatening. A person infected with the flu virus may experience a combination of these symptoms. Not everyone who has the flu will develop fever. The flu symptoms may get worse at night and disrupt the normal sleep pattern. The symptoms usually persist for about two weeks and most people recover without complications.Some people, however, may develop very serious and life-threatening conditions such as pneumonia.
The incubation period takes two to five days. It spreads very fast in the body of an infected person until the person starts to experience the symptoms. An infected person can pass the flu to others as early as one day before he or she developed the symptoms and up to seven days after the outbreak of disease. Children and people with suppressed immune function remain contagious for a much longer period of time. Because influenza is highly contagious, an infected person has to take special measures to prevent infection of others.
When you start experiencing any of the symptoms mentioned above, stay home and do not get tempted to go to work. On the one hand, your coworkers will be very grateful for not infecting them as well, on the other, you will have time to rest and recuperate. Your immune system has been weakened by the infection and needs all your support right now. Rest as much as you possibly can and cut all the sugar from your diet.
- To eradicate the virus from your body you have to act immediately as soon as you experience your symptoms. This is the time when it is still possible to stop the virus from spreading in your body. Antiviral drugs such as Tamiflu® and Relenza® are usually very effective within 24-48 hours from contracting the infection and must be taken in high doses. Tamiflu® helps reduce the severity and the duration of your infection. The advised dose of Tamiflu® is 75 mg twice a day for five consecutive days. In cases of the swine flu infection, the dose should be doubled. In many cases these medications may remain ineffective.
- Chamomile (Matricaria recutita) a popular herb, sometimes underestimated, can bring a great relief to an infected person.The blossoms contain high amounts of healing essential oils and have analgesic, anti-inflammatory, and anti-spasmodic properties. Chamomile can be drunk as an infusion or used for inhalations to ease respiratory problems during the infection. The chamomile infusion may also help with the gastrointestinal problems during the infection.
- Olive leaf extract (Olea europaea) or Oleuropein, contains a compound called calcium elenolate which is a natural antibiotic. In vitro and in vivo studies demonstrated that this compound is lethal to all viruses, including the influenza virus, as well as other microbes it was tested against. Olive leaf extract inhibits the replication of viruses and helps to shorten the duration of flu. It also enhances the activity of the immune system. The suggested dose is 500 mg twice daily at the onset of flu symptoms.
- Andrographis (Andrographis pinaculata), a herb native to Asia, helps to reduce the severity of flu symptoms and the duration of illness. Studies have shown that this herb has antiviral, antipyretic, and analgesic properties. Moreover, it is a powerful immune system stimulator. The suggested dosage is 400-500 mg of dried extract containing 6-10 percent andrographolides, three times a day to be taken within 48 hours after the first sign of the flu symptoms. Andrographis can be taken alone or in combination with Eleuthero root (Siberian ginseng).
- Elderberry (Sambucus nigra) has a long tradition as a remedy for cough and the common cold. Recent research demonstrated that an active compound called Antivirin has the capacity to prevent the flu virus from invading the membranes of healthy cells. The elderberry extract was clinically proven to reduce the flu symptoms and to speed recovery. It also stimulates the immune system. Suggested dose is 500 mg a day. Elderberry can be also drunk as a syrup.
- Linden flower tea also known as Lime flower tea (Tilia americana) is an effective herbal remedy. The blossoms are used as infusion to reduce fever and induce sweating. Pour a cup of boiling water over a table spoon of dried blossoms. Cover your cup and steep it for 10 minutes. You may want to use raw manuka honey to sweeten your tea. Because the tea induces sweating, it is suggested to dress warmly and stay in bed.
- Oscillococcinum is a time-tested homeopathic remedy that helps reduce the severity of the flu symptoms and the duration of disease. It works very fast and does not cause any side effects. For best efficacy, Oscillococcinum should be taken as soon as symptoms of infection are experienced. It comes in prepared doses. The suggested dose is to take the entire dose every six hours between the meals.
- Zinc is a mineral that assists the body in the formation of a strong immune system. When taken right at the onset of symptoms it can shorten the duration of infection and minimize the severity of the symptoms. Zinc should be taken in a form of Zinc gluconate or glycinate together with its co-factors Vitamin C and amino acid Histidine. The suggested dose is 15 mg twice a day with up to 1000 mg Vitamin C and 500 mg Histidin.
- Acerola berry extract is a natural source of vitamin C that your body needs to fight off the infection. Acerola berry contains whole spectrum vitamin C with its co-factors the bioflavonoids.
Depending on the severity of your symptoms you will have to take a break from your daily routine. Get enough rest, drink plenty of water, and change your diet to a lighter, easily digestible fare. As mentioned before, the flu symptoms may disturb your sleep pattern. Sleep is essential as during the night our immune system restores itself. A calming infusion made with chamomile, passion flower, and valerian root, drunk about 30 minutes before bed may help you unwind to a restful night sleep. Use nasal spray and sore throat lozenges made of Icelandic moss to ease your symptoms before you retire for the day. You may want to use a humidifier in your bedroom.
Contact your health care provider when:
- your fever lasts longer than three days
- your symptoms persist for more than ten days in spite of all the medication and rest your are taking
- when you develop new symptoms such as pain in your chest, disorientation, high fever, difficult breathing
Your physician will have to conduct tests to determine the virus that is causing the symptoms and make sure that you did not develop a pneumonia.
A strong immune system is the best way to avoid infections. There are some very effective immune system boosting strategies you may want to apply in the future. A healthy diet, moderate exercise, stress control, and adequate sleep are necessary if you want to stay infection free during the next flu season. Right now, I can only wish you a quick recovery.
By Dominique Allmon
This information is for educational purpose only. It is not meant to diagnose or cure a disease.
What to Do if You Contract Influenza by Dominique Allmon is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.