Influenza, also known as the flu is a very contagious infection of the nose, throat, and lungs caused by the influenza virus. It is also sometimes called Influenza A or Influenza B.
People often use the term “stomach flu” to describe a viral illness where vomiting or diarrhea are the main symptoms. This is incorrect, as the stomach symptoms are not caused by the flu virus. Flu infections are primarily respiratory infections. What we casually call the stomach flu is actually caused by food poisoning.
Symptoms of Influenza
The flu usually begins abruptly. Headache, fatigue and a dry cough are usually the initial symptoms of the flu. Muscles may ache and a sore throat may develop. A high fever may accompany a stuffy nose. Body temperature typically rises to between 102 to 106 degrees Farenheit.
Other less typical symptoms that are associated with influenza are nasal discharge, wheezing, a rattling cough, chills, sweating, vomiting, dizziness and loss of appetite.
If you are already ill with another chronic condition such as asthma or arthritis it may be more difficult to breathe while you have the flu.
The fever usually lasts for a day or two but the entire illness usually runs its entire cycle in five to seven days. Usually between day 2 and day 4 of the illness the aches, pain and headaches subside and the respiratory symptoms such as the cough and runny nose increase. This is evidence of the body trying to rid of itself of the virus.
What Causes Influenza?
The flu usually arrives in the winter months. The most common way to catch the flu is by breathing in droplets that contain the flu virus when other people cough or sneeze. It can also be spread if you touch a surface such as a phone or faucet that has the virus living on it and then touch your own mouth nose or eyes.
As the flu spreads through the air and is very contagious, it often strikes an entire workplace or school at once.
Anyone at any age can have serious complications from the flu, but those at highest risk include those over fifty years old, children under six months old, women in their second trimester of pregnancy.
Anyone with chronic heart, lung, or kidney conditions, diabetes, or weakened immune system is also more at risk for complications if they contract the flu
Care and Treatment
Most cases of flu resolve themselves within a week if you take the following steps –
Stop whatever you are doing and go home at the first sign of fever, dizziness and fatigue. Get plenty of rest. Drink plenty of liquids. You can take pain relievers like ibuprofen for headache.
It is essential that you don’t smoke or drink alcohol while ill with the flu as these substances weaken your immune system and also dehydrate you.
Don’t take antibiotics unless they are absolutely necessary to treat another infection in your body. Antibiotics, which treat bacterial infections, can weaken your body’s defenses when it comes to trying to fight a viral infection like the flu.
If the flu is diagnosed within 48 hours of when symptoms begin, especially if you are high risk for complications, taking antiviral medications may help shorten the length of symptoms by approximately a day.
Flu Usually Resolves in a Week
In most individuals who are otherwise healthy, the flu goes away within 7 to 10 days.
Possible complications of the flu include pneumonia, encephalitis (which is an infection of the brain), bronchitis, sinus infections and ear infections.
For more information about how to prevent and cope with the flu visit the Pinewood Natural Healthcare Centre website that has a list of full services and products at www.pinewoodhealth.ca. You can also call our Toronto Office at (416)-656- 8100. We also have an office in Pickering, Ontario at (905)-427-0057. Send an email to email@example.com and we would be happy to answer any question that you have about our holistic health services which includes, homeopathy, herbal remedies, naturopathic testing, acupuncture, weight loss programs and many other common naturopathic treatments.