Influenza or the ‘flu’ as it is commonly known, is viral infection that affects the upper and lower respiratory tract. It is mostly prevalent during the winter season and sometimes ahead of spring. People often do not know the difference between the common cold and the flu.
A runny nose, headaches, sore throat, sneezing, nasal obstruction, muscle ache and a mild fever are symptoms of the common cold. Flu symptoms include all of the above plus high fever, indigestion, loss of appetite, productive cough, vomiting, chills and chest congestion.
The common cold in its worst form is far from life threatening whereas influenza, without proper treatment, can lead to pneumonia. Common colds respond to anti-histamine medication while the flu will require anti-viral or antibiotic medication. Now that we have established some of the key differences between the common cold and the flu, let’s look at the most effective ways to treat the flu.
- Do not exert yourself. The flu will leave you feeling drained, depressed and weak. You need as much rest as you can get so work, school and any outdoor activities are a strict no-no. Stress whether physical or emotional will only make you feel worse so it is best to remain in bed till the symptoms wane and you feel strong enough to get up and move about.
- Drink plenty of fluids. If you are suffering from the flu, you will be dehydrated and low on energy. Keep drinking fluids all through the day to replace what you are losing due to the infection. Water and fresh fruit juices (except citrus juices) at room temperature are recommended. Boost your energy levels by adding a teaspoon of honey to a glass of warm water. Drink this three times a day. It will also soothe your throat and loosen the cough.
- Ice, chilled juices and water or anything out of the refrigerator are off limits. Eating or drinking cold food or drinks can worsen your condition or at the very least, slow down recovery.
- Blow your nose whenever it is stuffy. Do not try clearing your nose by inhaling the mucous back. Close one nostril and gently clear the other one. When you blow too hard, notice that your ears get blocked up. If you persist in blowing your nose hard, you will end up with earache. Smooth a little salve under your nose to prevent it from breaking from too much rubbing.
- Use thin and soft cotton handkerchiefs instead of tissue paper, which often breaks up if you sneeze too hard and you end up inhaling paper bits up your nose. Wash the handkerchiefs in hot water.
- Get as much sound sleep as you can. Merely staying in bed won’t help speed up your recovery. You need to close your eyes and completely rest your body, such rest as only sleep can give.
- Use two pillows instead of one. A stuffy nose can make it impossible to sleep. Slip a second thinner pillow underneath the first one. Use a thinner pillow instead of a fluffy one as you will be spending more time in bed and don’t want to end up with an aching neck.
- Eat small and light meals. Your stomach will be in no mood to cooperate with you but you must eat something to keep up your strength. Stick to small meals with little or no non-vegetarian fare included. Leave out oil, butter, cheese which are difficult to digest and drink vegetable and chicken soup. Chicken soup is said to have properties that clear a cold and related symptoms. Eat only home cooked meals.
- Get OTC medication. There are plenty of safe and effective over the counter medicines that work. Drink 1 teaspoon of cough syrup three times a day or as directed by your physician. You can take a dose of paracetamol (known as acetaminophen in the U.S.) to reduce the fever and the body ache. However, do not overdo it since it causes liver damage and is linked to blood cancer. Saline drops and nasal sprays are effective when used in moderation.
- Visit a doctor. If you are running a temperature over 103 degrees and there seems to be no sign of it reducing over 2 days, show yourself to a doctor. He will be able to prescribe an antibiotic that will clear up the infection quickly. Be particularly careful with young children, toddlers and infants who are running high temperatures. Do not wait for too long before consulting with their pediatrician.
- Try natural remedies. Drop 4 peppercorns and a 1-inch piece of dry ginger root into 1-½ cups of boiling water. Allow it to boil for 5 minutes and then remove from the stove. Pass the liquid through a sieve and mix in a teaspoon of honey. Drink this to reduce the congestion in the throat. One drop of eucalyptus oil on your clothes and pillow can replace the two-pillow remedy since it works as an excellent nasal decongestant.
- Inhale steam. Fill a facial steamer with water till it is half full and switch on. Cover your head and face with a towel and hold the steamer under it in such a way that the steam hits your face. Keep it at a distance that makes the heat bearable. Do this 2-3 times a day. Steam inhalation is an effective way of clearing the sinuses. It also relieves a headache and leaves your face feeling refreshed. You can add 1-2 drops of either eucalyptus or peppermint oil into the water.
- Have a hot bath. Stand under a hot shower to relieve the tension between your shoulders and the aches and pains everywhere else. Normally, when your fever breaks, you tend to sweat excessively. A hot bath is necessary to wash that sweat off your body.
Tips and Warnings
- Watch the temperature. Be sure to go to a doctor if it shoots up.
- Ask your doctor whether you need a dose of vitamin B complex along with your antibiotic dose. Antibiotics normally have a lot of side-effects that can be reduced by taking vitamins.
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