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- What is the Flu?
- Diagnosing the Flu
- What Causes the Flu?
- Help for the Flu
- More Information on the Flu
What is the Flu?
Flu is the abbreviated term for the influenza virus, which is a highly contagious viral infection of the respiratory tract. The virus affects the nose, throat, bronchial tubes, and lungs, and may also cause inflammation and pain in muscles and joints.
It is spread from person to person through airborne droplets when an infected person either coughs or sneezes. The influenza virus attacks cells in an uninfected person’s breathing passages and begins to replicate within six hours.
Are there Different Types of Flu?
The Flu virus is classified into three categories – Type A, B, and C.
- Type A viruses can infect people, birds, pigs, horses, seals, whales, and other animals. This type of virus can spread around the world causing seasonal epidemics. Recent examples included the avian flu, or bird flu.
- Type B viruses infect people and result in smaller, localized outbreaks. People infected with type B virus are often hospitalized with increased rates of death occurring.
- Type C viruses cause mild illness in humans without the onset of an epidemic or pandemic.
Diagnosing the Flu
Most people are familiar with the symptoms of the flu, but they can be mistaken for a severe cold in some cases. However, the flu infection is far more serious and can potentially cause severe health complications.
Symptoms include a fever, muscle aches, chills, headaches, coughing, congestion and extreme fatigue – although not all of these symptoms are present in every case. If your symptoms are severe, it is usually recommended that you seek medical assistance to obtain a proper diagnosis. In particular, the avian flu or bird flu cannot be diagnosed by symptoms alone, so seeking medical treatment is necessary.
There are a wide variety of viral infections that may cause flu-like symptoms, therefore it is important to rule out other possibilities before obtaining treatment.
What Causes Influenza?
The flu virus attacks the body’s cells and mutates into different forms. Because of the numerous different strains of the virus it is not always possible to protect yourself against the virus. The influenza virus is transmitted through direct contact with an infected person’s secretions (such as by inhaling droplets when they have coughed or sneezed).
It can also be spread by handling objects such as crockery, cutlery, doorknobs, or telephone receivers that an infected person has been in contact with.
Help for the Flu
The best way to treat the flu is to get plenty of bed rest and drink lots of fluids. Conventional doctors often recommend flu vaccines for high-risk groups such as young children, the elderly, those with chronic diseases, weak immune systems, or professionals working with high-risk groups.
Most people who are infected with the flu recover completely in 1 to 2 weeks. In some cases, severe complications such as pneumonia, nerve and brain damage may develop from a flu infection. However, most people recover from the flu without further complications, particularly if their immune systems are strong and healthy.
Treatments for the Flu
Over-the-counter medication such as aspirin, cough syrups, decongestants or throat lozenges are widely available to relieve flu symptoms. More serious cases of the flu are sometimes treated with prescription medication such as antiviral drugs. As the flu is a viral infection, antibiotics are not effective in the treatment program, although they may be recommended if there is a secondary bacterial infection.
More Information on the Flu
Prevention is Best
In order to prevent a flu infection, you need to maintain a healthy immune system. In addition, vaccinations do not provide protection against certain strains of influenza such as the avian flu or bird flu, so taking preventative measures can greatly support your health.
Follow these helpful hints to reduce your chance of becoming infected with the influenza virus this season:
- Wash your hands frequently, particularly underneath your fingernails
- Eat immune-enhancing foods that are chemical-free and organically grown
- A daily cup of natural organic yogurt can reduce your susceptibility to flu infections
- Cover your mouth or nose with a tissue when you cough and sneeze
- Drink eight glasses of water daily to cleanse your body’s system
- Increase your supplement intake with Vitamin C and cod liver oil
- Strive to obtain consistent, adequate sleep and regular exercise help to ward off infections
- Reduce stress by practicing relaxation techniques, exercising, or listening to music
- Avoid sharing personal items such as cups with someone who has the flu
- Limit your alcohol consumption, as alcohol dehydrates the body and leaves you more prone to infection