As the warm months come to an end and the temperatures start to drop, it’s time to bid farewell to summer and say hello to flu season. The flu is one of the most common respiratory illnesses, especially in the winter. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that in the United States from October 1, 2021 to June 11, 2022 there were between 8-13 million flu cases.
At SABEResPODER we want to take care of our community. We put together a simple and comprehensive guide with tips for identifying and treating flu symptoms, as well as other suggestions for staying healthy.
What Is the Flu?
The World Health Organization (WHO) defines the flu as a viral infection that attacks the respiratory tract, lasts one to two weeks, and may go away on its own. It’s highly contagious and spreads through the air via small droplets or particles expelled by sneezing or coughing.
Keep in mind: The flu is usually a mild or moderate illness, but it can sometimes become severe or even fatal. People with any of the following characteristics fall into the high-risk category, which means they are more likely to get severe flu:
Adults over the age of 65
Children under age 5
Pregnant women, especially during the second trimester
Immunocompromised patients, especially those with HIV/AIDS or cancer
People with chronic pulmonary, cardiac, metabolic, renal, hematological, hepatic, and other diseases
Children under 18 who take aspirin
Common flu symptoms
Flu symptoms usually appear abruptly after the period between infection and incubation, which varies between one and four days. After that, the following symptoms may appear:
Tiredness or fatigue
Fever over 100.4°F
Diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting (in some patients)
Main causes of the flu
The only way to get the flu is through person-to-person influenza virus transmission. Currently, up to four types of this virus are known (A, B, C, and D). Type A is the most common and causes the majority of outbreaks, followed by type B.
Type A virus has two subtypes that currently circulate among humans: H1N1 and H3N2. Many people are familiar with A(H1N1), which caused the 2009 pandemic. The other strains either cause mild or no infection.
12 Differences Between a Cold and the Flu
The flu and the common cold share similar symptoms, and many people often confuse the two. However, the viruses differ enough that separate treatments exist for each condition. The following comparison chart will help you differentiate between the flu and a cold.
Keep in mind: It’s easy to confuse a cold with the flu. The best advice will always be to seek professional medical attention when you’re sick. PODERsalud provides instant access to virtual medical assistance via video chat or phone. Get professional advice 24/7, without leaving the house!
Five Home Remedies to Relieve Flu Symptoms
Fortunately, most flu symptoms can be treated and relieved at home. With proper care and rest, you might not even need to see a doctor. Keep in mind that this is primarily determined by how strong your immune system is and whether or not you belong to a high-risk group. Read on for the top home remedies that help relieve flu symptoms.
Drink plenty of fluids
Our bodies are mostly water. When we get sick, we can lose fluids in several ways, so staying hydrated is critical. This keeps fevers at bay and helps support your body to heal. Mineral water or lemon water are accessible alternatives that can help prevent dehydration.
Keep in mind: Research has shown that daily fluid needs differ from person to person. In fact, did you know that the notion that everyone should drink eight glasses of water a day is incorrect? Discuss your recommended daily intake with your physician or a nutrition specialist.
Get plenty of rest
Rest is essential for our bodies to heal. When we rest, our bodies are given the opportunity to restore energy levels and fight illnesses like the flu.
Staying active, exercising, going out, or fighting through fatigue might seem like the best way to help your body heal, but this isn’t the case. You only make yourself weaker by forcing your body to perform strenuous activities while sick.
Drink soup, tea, or any hot liquid
Ingesting hot liquids can produce a sense of well-being in our sick bodies, which could play an important role in the healing process on a psychological level. A hearty chicken or vegetable soup provides essential vitamins, proteins, and other nutrients that help strengthen the immune system.
Teas are also beneficial, particularly if the main ingredient has anti-inflammatory and decongestant properties. The temperature of these liquids can induce sweating, which helps to lower fever. Hot teas also soothe coughs and throat irritation. Some teas that provide relief include:
Ginger: Antipyretic, analgesic, and antibacterial properties
Lemon with honey: Decongests, improves breathing, and soothes your throat
Garlic: Anti-flu, antiseptic, analgesic, and expectorant properties
Echinacea: Promotes a strong immune system
Star anise: Promotes general virus elimination
Dandelion: Fights viral infection and strengthens the immune system
Breathing in steam
One way to relieve bothersome nasal congestion is to use humidifiers or vaporizers. They add moisture to the air, making it easier for you to breathe.
If you don't have these products at home, you can make your own vaporizer with boiling water and eucalyptus. Eucalyptus is an excellent expectorant, promotes respiratory tract opening, and soothes sore throat. To use it, simply:
Boil at least one liter (one quart) of water
Once boiling, add the dried eucalyptus leaves, and boil for one minute
Remove from heat and carefully place on a heat-proof surface in your room
Allow the steam to spread throughout the space as you breathe normally
Increase potency and reach by placing several containers throughout the room. For even more impact, place the container directly under your nose and mouth for a more concentrated experience.
Gargle with salt water
Another option for sore throat relief is to gargle warm water and salt, which can temporarily relieve irritation and pain. Here’s how:
Fill a glass of hot water with ½ teaspoon of salt and stir until it dissolves
Gargle for a few seconds, then spit it out
Repeat the process until the glass is empty
You can do this in the morning and before bed for the duration of your symptoms.
What Medications Are Effective Against the Flu?
Getting a doctor’s opinion may help you treat the flu more effectively and quickly. They will most likely indicate which medications can relieve symptoms like fever, congestion, cough, and general discomfort. Some of the commonly used treatments are:
Keep in mind: Many of these medications are available without a prescription. Always consult your doctor before using them. Aspirin is not recommended for children under the age of 18 due to the risk of Reye's syndrome.
If you’re at high risk for severe flu, your doctor might indicate certain prescription antiviral medications to treat your symptoms as soon as you start to get sick. This only applies for certain patients and should occur under medical supervision.
What Medications Should You Avoid When You Have the Flu?
Antibiotics work by attacking bacteria that make you sick. Since the flu is caused by a virus, these drugs are not effective. On the contrary, they increase what’s known as bacterial resistance. This is a major concern in the medical community, which has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic due to increased misuse of antibiotics.
Be cautious when administering over-the-counter medications to children. Always consult a pediatrician first. The CDC recommends the following:
For children under age 6, acetaminophen only
Children 6 years and older may take acetaminophen or ibuprofen
Only a doctor should prescribe cough medications to children under the age of 4
Correct dosage is very important! Consult your pharmacist or doctor
Prevention Is the Best Medicine
The flu is a preventable disease, whose risk of infection can be reduced by practicing proper hygiene; avoiding contact with sick people; not touching your eyes, mouth, or nose in public; wearing a face mask in crowded or enclosed spaces; and avoiding contact with contaminated surfaces. The best way to avoid the flu is to get vaccinated every year.
What to Avoid If You Have the Flu
If you’re sick, the most important thing is to avoid contact with healthy people. The flu is highly contagious and can make others sick, contributing to the spread of the disease and putting vulnerable people at risk. Try the following tips:
Stay home from work or school
Cover your face with a tissue when you cough or sneeze
Avoid consuming alcoholic beverages or tobacco products
Avoid consuming processed, sugary, carbonated, or unhealthy foods
How Can I Differentiate COVID-19 from the Flu?
Both the flu and COVID-19 present similar signs and symptoms, making it difficult to tell them apart. However, COVID-19 can cause you to lose your sense of smell and taste, which is the most notable differentiator.
Keep in mind: There are other differences between the two viruses, such as incubation time, severity of symptoms, and potential complications. If you suspect that you have COVID-19, see a doctor or get a free test.
When Should You See a Doctor If You Have the Flu?
Although the flu is a treatable illness that doesn’t require medical attention, it’s important to understand the warning signs. If you have any of these symptoms, see a doctor right away. If you are in the high-risk group, contact a doctor as soon as possible to begin appropriate treatment.
Don’t Let the Flu Get You Down!
Understanding common illnesses such as the flu will help you stay healthy and protect both you and your family. Using the information in this guide, you’ll have the tools to identify and treat the flu using simple remedies and techniques at home. Always remember that when it comes to your health and well-being, SABEResPODER!
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