In the United States about 5-25% of the population will get the flu each year. For most the flu will be an uncomfortable inconvenience but some people with compromised immune systems can have more complications. On average 2,000 people are hospitalized with flu symptoms. The number of deaths related to this virus are difficult to pinpoint, but experts suggest it is anywhere between 3,000 and 50,000. Why the great discrepancy? It is all dependent on the types of flu viruses causing the main outbreaks and whether or not people have used prevention methods or are treating the condition properly.
How is the flu different from a cold?
The overall symptoms of a cold and the flu are very similar but it is important to determine which is causing your illness in order to treat it properly. Both are respiratory conditions. In fact, the sickness we refer to as the stomach flu isn’t related to the flu at all. The flu virus does not cause gastrointestinal distress.
Colds typically begin with a sore throat which is followed by sneezing, coughing, congestion, and a runny nose. A cold will usually run its course after a week, though it is important to keep in mind that people with colds are contagious for the first three days. Care should be taken to prevent spreading the germs.
Flu, however, can be a much more serious matter even with a mild case. The symptoms start fast and include sore throat, fevers, headaches, muscle aches, congestion, and coughs. People with the flu generally feel fatigued or like they’ve been run over by a truck. This feeling is absent with a cold. As we mentioned the stomach flu isn’t the flu at all, however the swine flu can cause issues with vomiting and diarrhea. These symptoms are not common with all types of flu viruses. The most common complication with the flu is the possible progression to pneumonia which can be fatal for some patients if not treated properly.
There are plenty of ways to prevent the flu. You may opt to receive a flu shot available for free or at a low cost throughout your community. It is also important to maintain proper hygiene during cold and flu season. Wash your hands, don’t touch your face, and be cautious around others who may be carrying germs.
Once you know whether or not your runny nose, cough, and sore throat is caused by a cold or flu, there are many ways to treat a mild case right at home.
The flu can cause dehydration quickly so drinking plenty of fluids is extremely important. Water is always the best option but herbal tea or a sports drink would be fine as well. However, make sure you stay away from caffeinated drinks and alcoholic drinks. Caffeine is a diuretic and won’t help replenish any fluids. Alcohol will make you tired and you’ll already be tired from the flu. An herbal tea, especially with honey, can be soothing as well as rehydrating.
Whatever you do, don’t try to do too much of it. In our culture we always feel the need to be on the go so it may be tempting to ignore the symptoms and push through, but this can cause the virus to linger for longer. Don’t go to work. Get some help at home. Really listen to your body and rest because that will be the quickest way to recovery.
Homemade chicken soup
Whether the effects are purely emotional or not, chicken soup for the sick has been one of the most widely used home remedies in our culture. The soup itself may not have any healing properties but it can certainly make you feel better. Hot soup does have some benefits. The steam helps with breathing and the heat helps to soothe an achy throat. However, when it comes to holistic health it is important to take the entire person into account and if chicken soup simply makes you feel better, like a security blanket or a favorite movie, then by all means enjoy the simple pleasures of it.
Adding this supplement in the right amounts is a good idea year-round, but it can also help fight off viral infections like the flu. Start using more at the beginning of flu season and increase the dose if you get sick. Take the supplements in 500 milligram increments to allow your body to absorb the nutrient properly.
Oil of oregano
Not only is oregano great for pizza sauce, it also has strong antiviral properties. Neither a cold nor the flu is caused by bacteria so an antibiotic does nothing to stop the symptoms. You can certainly fight the flu with pizza if someone is up to the task of eating it, otherwise a drop of oregano oil in a glass of water can help.
Sometimes the flu doesn’t run its course as expected. If you need a little more firepower to stop the symptoms and get back on your feet there are a few over-the-counter remedies that you can try.
- Ibuprofen or acetaminophen: Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications can help relieve the aches and pains associated with the flu. You may also wish to take a medication with a fever reducer.
- Decongestants and cough medicines: Over-the-counter cough medicines can help relieve the nasal congestion and coughing symptoms that you may be experiencing.
- Multi-symptom flu medications: If you prefer, you can treat everything at once with an all-in-one medication. However, it is important to note that if you do not have all the symptoms listed you may be taking drugs that you don’t need.
It is always important to read labels, understand the risks, and use the medication properly.
Of course, it is also important to monitor yourself, children, or older adults for complications. If the flu hasn’t run its course in a week, you may wish to speak with a doctor and rule out any additional concerns such as pneumonia.
What are some of the home remedies that you’ve used to treat the flu once you’ve caught it?
Image by Lucia Sanchez via Flickr