With reports suggesting that Americans this year are heading towards a nasty flu season, here’s what you need to know about flu and flu prevention.
What is the flu?
Influenza or flu is a viral respiratory disease that usually appears around winter or early spring time.
Flu symptoms: Flu v/s Cold
Sometimes it is difficult to make out whether you have flu or cold. Coughing, headache and chest discomfort are common symptoms, but with flu, you’re likely to run a high fever and experience body pain and tiredness. Flu symptoms are rather abrupt- they come on suddenly and complications of the disease can be more life-threatening.
The reason flu could be particularly tough this year is that, H3N2, the dominant strain of influenza virus that’s circulating, is a deadly type and reports suggest, flu shots aren’t going to be as effective this time. That’s because the viruses that are doing the rounds aren’t a good match for the ones used in the flu vaccines. So how do you prevent the flu?
To prevent or control flu from spreading, let’s first understand how it spreads. Flu is an extremely contagious disease that spreads from person to person, especially across groups of people who stay in close contact- across dormitories, daycare, office, classrooms, nursing homes etc. It can be spread:
- By inhaling air droplets containing the flu virus.
- Through respiratory secretions, if you happen to share food or drinks with an infected person
- By touching utensils or other items handled by an infected person.
Within one to four days after infection with the virus, flu symptoms start to appear.
Basic hygiene controls
Some hygiene controls are basic to controlling the spread of flu. It is important that the patient covers his/her mouth while coughing. It is recommended that infected people stay back at home. For those around, washing hands frequently ensures that the virus doesn’t spread through contact.
Get your dose of flu vaccine
Forecasts apart, it is important for you to get your flu shot. While you may still get flu-like symptoms, information suggesting that flu shots could cause flu are bogus!
Flu is a viral infection and antibiotics won’t work. Antibiotics work only when the infection is caused by bacteria..Two antiviral medications are available. While they cannot prevent flu, they can certainly reduce the severity and duration of the disease.
While you must be particular about taking your flu vaccine and/or flu antivirals (If you show flu symptoms, report to the doctor within 2 days), these flu home remedies can bring relief.
- Drink lots of fluids- juice, water, soups, herbal tea with honey and soda. Stay away from caffeinated drinks and alcohol though. Your body tends to get dehydrated by flu, so you need to replace all that fluid. Your urine color is an indicator of whether you’re taking the right amount of fluids- it should ideally be colorless, or a pale yellow.
- Rest as and when required.
- Take a steamy shower- inhaling moist air helps ease symptoms.
- Try warm compresses on the forehead and nose.
- Gargle with hot water (add a pinch of salt to it).
- Try nasal irrigation to clear your passages.
- Heat water in a pot; add a drop or two of eucalyptus oil. Now bend over the pot and cover your head with a towel. Close your eyes and inhale the vapor- this helps ease congestion.
- Lozenges, nasal strips and menthol ointments also bring relief.
Tip: Taking a few cods of garlic everyday helps prevent cold and flu.