By Summer Thornsberry
The world is on high alert over the Ebola crisis, but there’s a yearly culprit that families must not forget to protect themselves from: the flu.
Influenza is a common illness in the U.S. in which a viral infection reaches the respiratory area, attacking the nose, throat and lungs. The number of flu cases reported each year shows that the flu most often occurs as colder weather approaches and can be spread in a variety of ways.
The flu usually attacks a weaker immune system, one that isn’t strong enough to fight the virus off. Pregnant women, transplant survivors, diabetics and school-age children are at higher risk of contracting the illness. Known for being highly contagious, while in season, it is reported that 5 to 20 percent of the general population comes in contact with the flu. On average, 23,600 flu-related deaths are reported each year.
Signs and symptoms
Influenza is a severe infection, and if not treated, can be fatal. If you begin to experience any of the following symptoms, you may want to contact your doctor for further evaluation and instructions for fighting the flu.
- A fever of 100 degrees Fahrenheit or above may be present for several days. In some reported cases, a fever was present for two to seven days.
- Severe headaches and muscle aches are common and may have some affect on day to day activities.
- Unusual tiredness may occur, and operating a vehicle could potentially be dangerous.
- “Goosebumps” and/or cold chills are a tell-tale sign. Dress as warm and as comfortable as possible. Try to avoid traveling in cold weather to prevent symptoms from worsening. A cough, and a sore throat are also common complaints reported from flu patients. As well as a runny nose, although more common in children than adults.
What are the risks?
You often hear the flu in comparison with the common cold because the two are so much alike. Both display similar symptoms, however, the flu is much more severe and it will not go away on it’s own. Untreated influenza can lead to several severe health issues. In many reported cases, untreated influenza lead to pneumonia. Pneumonia is a serious infection of the lungs, attacking one lung or both lungs and can have severe, even fatal results.
Keep it simple
Over the years, many theories have been put to the test, looking for natural ways to cure the flu. Although, there has been no natural cure officially discovered, many physicians will still recommend you try these at home remedies, when dealing with the flu:
- Drink plenty of fluids. The flu can cause dehydration, which can lead to fainting and other medical problems. Keep yourself hydrated.
- Gargle warm salt water. This helps clear any left over mucus in the back of your throat.
- Take a hot shower, the steam from the hot water will help open your airways and thin out mucus.
- A humidifier will help filter the air you breathe in, making it safer for yourself, and your family who will be less likely to contract the infection.
- Chicken broth is famous for settling a upset stomach, and can also help liquefy mucous secretitions.
- Take aspirin, ibuprofen and acetaminophen. Lowering your temperature will help prevent dehydration. Take aspirin and ibuprofen for your muscle pain. Acetaminophen is more effective in breaking a fever. Be sure to check allergies and side effects before taking any medication.
- The flu may cause loss of appetite. If this happens, try drinking juices. Not only will it help you stay hydrated, it will also give you some nutrients you may be missing due to no appetite.
- Honey has been used as a traditional medicine for treating coughs. It acts as a natural expectorant and promotes the flow of mucus. The recipe is simple: 1 tablespoon of honey and 1 cup of hot water. Mix and stir.
- Over the counter flu medicine is always an option and available at your local pharmacy. Be sure to check with your physician or pharmacist before consuming.
Influenza vaccination, also known as the “flu shot,” are available to you, and your family. To take the next step on protecting your family this flu season, contact your local health department to set up your vaccination. You can also contact your primary care provider, or local pharmacy for more information on vaccinations.
When to seek help
If you are still experiencing symptoms after 7-9 days, or you feel as if your symptoms have worsened, contact your primary care provider immediately to take further action.