Influenza is one of the most common health problems affecting thousands of men, women and children, living across the United States. It can be described as a viral infection that attacks your respiratory system, which includes organs like your lungs, throat and nose. Most people commonly refer to this infection simply as “the flu”. This type of infection is different from the viruses that lead to stomach problems, characterized by vomiting and diarrhea.

While a seasonal flu can affect just about anybody, it is more commonly seen in children or seniors who are over the age of 65. Because this infection is highly contagious, it has been observed that health care providers and child care personal are more prone to this condition. Your risks of contracting the flu can increase considerably, if you have a weakened immune system due to any reason. Some of the factors that compromise your immune system and weaken it include conditions like HIV/ AIDS, cancer treatment and the use of anti-rejection drugs or corticosteroids. In case you suffer from health conditions, which include asthma, diabetes and heart diseases, your chances of flu could also increase significantly. It has also been observed that pregnant women are likely to develop influenza and the complications related to it, especially in the second and third trimesters.

In most instances the flu is not a serious problem and can be cured within a few days or within a week. However, at times, it is possible for the flu to last for a longer period of time, including several weeks, or it may recur, mainly because of other health problems. In spite of the fact that the flu is so common, it can lead to some severe complications. An estimate from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention in the US claims that every year, tens of thousands of people die because of complication arising from the flu. Young and healthy adults do not stand a very high risk of influenza-related complications. However, children with under-developed immune systems or senior citizens could develop ear infections, pneumonia and bronchitis, because of the flu.

Symptoms of Influenza

Most people mistake the flu for a common cold in the initial stages, mainly because their symptoms are very similar. However, one of the main differences between the two conditions is that a cold takes a while to develop, but the flu comes on rather suddenly. Moreover, a cold is not as severe and uncomfortable as the flu can get. Given below are some of the common symptoms for influenza:

  • Runny nose, accompanied by repetitive sneezing
  • Sore throat and throat irritation
  • Congestion in the nasal passages
  • Muscle pain, especially in the legs, back and the arms
  • Mild to severe headaches
  • Fever that is over 100 degrees F (38 degrees C)
  • Weakness, tiredness and fatigue
  • Dry cough
  • Sweats and chills

It is not necessary that you will experience all these symptoms in case you get infected with the flu virus. There are many individuals who only experience a mild or high fever, usually accompanied by a runny nose, body ache and chills. This is probably why the flu goes undetected for the first day or so, as several individuals treat it like a regular fever.

In order to avoid any flu-related complications, it is important for you to begin treatment as soon as the symptoms become evident. Therefore, it is best to get in touch with your health care provider in case you suspect you have the flu. By taking antiviral medications within the first 48 hours after the symptoms appear, you could reduce the length of your illness, which in turn reduces the risks of serious problems and complications.

Causes of Influenza

The influenza virus spreads from one person to the other through droplets in the air, when an infected person coughs or sneezes. The virus enters your body, in case you happen to inhale any of these droplets. At times, talking can also cause the virus to get transmitted from one person to the other. Another way in which you could pick up the germs is by touching objects that have already been used by an infected person. Many of us get infected because of sharing utensils and other similar items with those who are already suffering from the flu.

It has been observed that the influenza virus has been changing over the last few years, with new strains appearing at regular intervals. If you have had the flu in the past, your body may have already developed the antibodies that combat that particular strain of virus. In case the viruses that enter your body are similar to the ones that you had before, the antibodies could be useful in preventing the infection. However, the antibodies present in your system are not capable of protecting your body from the new strains of the virus. Unfortunately, these new strains can be passed on to humans from animals, such as birds or pigs.

In the last decade or so, there have been a few types of influenza that have created a pandemic, which is an epidemic on a worldwide scale. Bird flu and Swine flu are two common examples of such new strains of influenza that caused several cases of death, throughout the globe.

Remedies for Influenza

Since antibiotics have no effect on a virus, you cannot use them to treat the flu. There are certain antiviral medications that can help your body fight off the virus and recover at a faster rate. However, several strains of the flu-causing virus have become immune to these medicines. Moreover, one of the most effective ways of treating influenza is by getting a lot of rest and drinking plenty of fluids during the day. Therefore, many health care providers advise people to deal with the symptoms of influenza using home remedies. Given below are some of the most highly recommended home remedies for influenza:

  • Drink a cup of warm water, to which a few drops of honey or lemon have been added. This soothes the symptoms and at the same time loosens the phlegm, so that the body can get rid of it. This exercise should be repeated around 2 or 3 times a day.
  • Prepare a decoction by boiling a tablespoon of fenugreek seeds in half liter of warm water. Continue boiling the seeds, till the water reduces to one third of its original quantity. Then, add a teaspoon of fresh ginger juice to this concoction, along with a few drops of honey, just to make it more palatable. Drink this mixture once a day.
  • In a jar mix equal amounts of honey and onion juice. Consume around 3 to 4 teaspoons of this mixture once a day, till the flu lasts
  • Mix a teaspoon or turmeric powder in a glass of warm milk and consume this remedy at least two or preferably three times a day. This helps strengthen the liver and alleviates the symptoms of flu.
  • Ginger tea has an excellent effect on the body and helps alleviate the symptoms of the flu. Use 2 to 3 pieces of ginger to prepare this tea and consume it at regular intervals during the course of the day.

Diet for Influenza

There are several foods that can help boost your strength and immunity, which in turn helps your body to fight off the virus. At the same time, these foods alleviate the uncomfortable symptoms of the flu to a great extent. Therefore, it is best to follow a specific diet in order to enhance the treatment of influenza.

A typical diet for influenza patients should be very high in fresh fruits and veggies. Because of a loss in appetite, you may find it difficult to consume the required amounts of fruits and vegetables. Therefore, you could stick to fruit juice, fresh vegetable juice and vegetable soup or broth. Chicken soup is also known to be very effective in managing the symptoms of the flu. Follow this diet for the first three or four days. After the juice and soup diet, you can start including milk to your diet too.

As the symptoms of the flu begin to decrease, you need to include solid foods into your diet. Make sure that you continue to follow a balanced diet, which is high in fresh fruits, vegetables, protein, good fats and complex carbs. Given below are some of the foods that should be included in a diet for influenza:

  • Leafy greens like spinach cabbage, Brussels sprouts and kale
  • Broccoli
  • Carrots
  • Ginger
  • Garlic
  • Onions
  • Grapefruit
  • Oranges and orange juice
  • Lemon
  • Peppers

While some of the foods help alleviate influenza and its symptoms, others are known to aggravate it. Given below are some of the food items that should be eliminated from a diet for influenza:

  • Spicy food
  • Sugar and sweets
  • Red meat or processed meat
  • Refined flour and bakery products
  • Alcoholic beverages
  • Coffee, aerated drinks and other caffeinated beverages

Suggestion for Influenza

There are several recommendations from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention for the prevention of the flu. There are vaccinations too that have been developed for this purpose. However, these vaccines are not given to those children who are below 6 months old. In such instances, it is up to the parents to ensure that their children are kept away from the flu virus. This is possible by following strict hygienic measures.

Never leave the flu unchecked, as it could lead to severe and perhaps even fatal complications. Make sure that you consult a doctor as soon as any of the symptoms become evident.

Influenza - Frequently asked questions
4 Influenza remedies suggested by our users
suggested by P on Monday, November 26, 2007

Do a thorough Intestinal Cleanse first. I use Renew Life Total Body Rapid Cleanse. Chicken Soup which I add "Turkey" (which is a natural Tryptophan). Take Natural Vitamin C & E plus your regular multi vitamins. Get plenty of rest, drink lots of fluids (water) I prefer at times "Ginger ale" Wash bedding with Grapefruit Seed Extract (GSE). Also add to clothes, hand soaps, shampoos a few drops of GSE to get rid of germs.

honey remedy
suggested by [unspecified] on Friday, April 13, 2007

drink a whole cup of honey by itself and then sleep... it gives you more energy

Stop the Cold
suggested by Matt on Sunday, February 18, 2007

Best thing going for any flu, sinus infection, cold,viruses etc. is product called Airborne. #1 bestseller in USA! Can find any dept. store. It comes in several varieties and flavors- also for Kids. Use it at onset of a cold or when you go into areas where someone is sick. Will help build a defense and/or help you get better quicker. I use it consistantly-no sickness for over 2yrs!

hot lime tea
suggested by Gigi on Monday, April 17, 2006

boil water, mix with lots of limes, as sour as you can drink, and honey or sugar, as sweet as you can drink, and drink while hot.