‘Under the weather’, ‘down with the flu’ and ‘calling in sick’ are some of the phrases that do the rounds this time every year thanks to seasonal influenza. We take a closer to look at its
A seemingly harmless infliction, seasonal influenza can play spoilsport when you have to show up for that all-important job interview, presentation or a special date, with an aching, feverish body, puffy eyes and Rudolph’s nose. Read on for the experts’ take on how to deal with the big bad flu.
Seasonal influenza explained
Our Expert: Dr Nagesh Babu, consultant internal medicine, Al Kindi Specialist Hospital
Influenza is an infection of the respiratory tract observed to strike during seasonal transition, affirms Dr Babu. Symptoms are cough, a runny and stuffy nose, fatigue, fever, chills and body ache. Influenza is transmitted through droplets from sneezes and coughs of infected people.
“The condition worsens as we tend to live in closed environments, which allow the virus to circulate within homes and offices,” says the doctor.
Influenza can lead to serious complications like pneumonia and bacterial infections. Risk groups include both young children and adults over the age of 65. They have low immunity, which allows the infection to be more virulent.
Patients of asthma, diabetes, allergic problems also fall under the high-risk group. The infection thrives more easily in such people and further aggravates their underlying problem.
Symptoms of influenza are different from the regular common cold and sore throat in terms of severity. They are more severe, could lead to further problems and take longer to alleviate. The symptoms manifest after around three days after the infection attacks, but can spread to others from the very first day.
“Patients must avoid direct contact with others to prevent spread of the virus,” advises Dr Babu.
Treatment and prevention
Our Expert: Dr Abdelhafid Boumezbeur, specialist internal medicine, Royal Bahrain Hospital
“Viruses are always changing their configuration. So only symptomatic treatment for influenza is given,” says Dr Abdelhafid.
Pain killers, antihistamines and cough syrups are the usual way to go. If there is a high risk of infection, antibiotics are administered. Children should be given a paediatric dose and expectant ladies must steer clear of these medications, unless under strict medical supervision when absolutely necessary.
One must remember that all medicines have minor side effects, like dizziness or irritability, due to which patients must avoid driving or operating dangerous machinery. Also, if very strong antibiotics are taken for a long duration, it can cause resistance to bacteria and hence must be avoided.
“Normally, the body can fight the virus on its own without any medication. Medicines only help to reduce the duration and acuteness of the symptoms so one can go about daily activities normally. Timely medication also prevents possibility of upper respiratory tract infection,” says the doctor.
Like many others, Dr Abdelhafid suggests the influenza vaccine is the most effective way to prevent the flu. It is especially helpful for aged patients and those suffering from cardiac problems, diabetes and chronic respiratory disorders. This vaccine changes every year to combat new strains of the virus and protects against most common types of flu viruses.
The infamous Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) making the headlines these days has symptoms similar to seasonal influenza. They are far more serious and can be fatal due to intense respiratory distress. Blood tests and a separate protocol are part of the diagnosis.
The natural way to fight the flu
Our Expert: Alia Almoayed, independent nutritional therapist
Alia opines that a strong immune system is the key to preventing the illness. For that, you need plenty of vitamin C-rich foods, such as green salads, fruits and vegetables. One must also ensure an alkaline body, as opposed to an acidic one. Green juice made from one fruit and lots of leafy greens every morning is her way to maintain an alkaline body environment in which viruses and bacteria cannot survive.
“It is very important to keep the body hydrated with good quality water. Dehydration means circulation is slower and therefore the body will be slower at flushing out any pathogens,” she explains.
But what do you do when that itchy throat and blocked nose has already showed up? The best natural remedy for the flu is raw honey (Manuka honey) mixed with apple cider vinegar and crushed garlic. Take a teaspoon of this three times a day during illness. It is very good for killing any virus or bacteria in the body. You should stop once you feel better.
Young ones are frequently prone to relapses of the flu as they come into contact with other affected children at school or the playgroup. Alia says that caregivers must ensure they are doing everything to prevent it. Children should be taking a daily multi-vitamin to keep their system strong.
Alia does not endorse the flu vaccine as she believes that the body should be able to defend itself once it is provided with all the raw materials it needs.
To sum up
Practical measures can help offer some protection against the flu:
• Air out your home for a few minutes every day to let fresh, clean air in.
• Limit close contact with sick people.
• Sneeze/cough into your elbow to help keep hands clean and avoid germs from spreading.
• Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth to curb spread of the germs.
• Trash used tissues immediately.
• Wash hands with soap or a hand sanitiser frequently.
• Disinfect surfaces that may have been contaminated with the virus.
• Feast on warm, nutritious, comfort foods and exercise regularly to strengthen your immune system.