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Influenza in adults

What is it?

Influenza (in-floo-EN-za) or "flu" is an infection (in-FEK-shun) that affects your nose, throat, windpipe, lungs, and muscles. It is most common in fall and winter. It is easily spread to others. You can get the flu one to four days after being around people who have it. People with the flu usually feel better in seven to ten days.

Causes:

Flu is caused by a virus (germ) and is spread to others by coughing, sneezing, and even talking. There are many different viruses that cause the flu each year. Most types of flu can be prevented by a flu shot. A flu shot is a vaccine (vak-SEEN). A vaccine is medicine that may keep you from getting the flu virus.

Signs and Symptoms:

You may have chills, fever (high body temperature), body aches, cough, sore throat, or headaches. You may vomit (throw up) and have diarrhea (loose, watery BMs). Other signs may be runny nose, earache, and red, watery, and sore eyes. You may also feel very tired and have muscle or joint pain.

Wellness Recommendations:

Eat a healthy, balanced diet. Exercise 3 to 4 times a week. If you smoke, you should quit. Limit how much alcohol you drink. Learn to control stress. Try to stay away from those who have the flu. Always wash your hands after using the toilet.

Medical Care:

There is no cure for the flu. You should rest and drink 6 to 8 glasses (soda pop can size) of liquids each day. Take acetaminophen or ibuprofen for body aches and fever. Do not take aspirin. You may need cough medicine. Stay away from others to keep from spreading the flu. If you are over 65 or have other diseases, you may want to get a flu shot next fall.

Dietary Measures:

  • Eat a healthy and well-balanced diet.

Herbs and Supplements:

Before taking any herbs or supplements, ask your caregiver if it is OK. Talk to your caregiver about how much you should take. If you are using this medicine without instructions from your caregiver, follow the directions on the label. Do not take more medicine or take it more often than the directions tell you to. The herbs and supplements listed may or may not help treat your condition.

Herbs:

  • Andrographis (Andrographis paniculata) has been used for many years, but has not been studied in people who have influenza.
  • Astragalus (Astragalus membranaceus) has been used for many years, but has not been studied in people who have influenza.
  • Echinacea (Echinacea purpura) may be helpful for influenza and has been studied in people.
  • Elderberry (Sambucus nigra) may be helpful for influenza and has been studied in people.
  • Goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis) has been used for many years, but has not been studied in people who have influenza.
  • Horseradish (Cochlearia armoracia) has been used for many years, but has not been studied in people who have influenza.
  • Mullein (Verbascum thapsus) has been used for many years, but has not been studied in people who have influenza.
  • Slippery elm (Ulmus fulva) has been used for many years, but has not been studied in people who have influenza.
  • Usnea (Usnea barbata) has been used for many years, but has not been studied in people who have influenza.
  • Wild indigo (Baptisia tinctoria) has been used for many years, but has not been studied in people who have influenza.

Supplements:

  • Vitamin C may be helpful for influenza and has been studied in people.

Complementary Therapies:

  • Biofeedback, meditation, and relaxation may help prevent the flu.
  • Oscillococcinum, a homeopathic remedy, is often used to treat viral infections like influenza. It may decrease symptoms and speed recovery.

Other ways of treating your symptoms:

Other ways to treat your symptoms are available to you.

Talk to your caregiver if:

  • You would like medicine to treat influenza.
  • Your temperature keeps getting higher.
  • You have chest pain or a deep cough with lots of mucus (thick fluid).
  • You have nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea.
  • You have ear pain.
  • Your symptoms have not gone away or improved by these self-help measures.
  • You have questions about what you have read in this document.

SEEK CARE IMMEDIATELY IF :

  • You have trouble breathing.
  • You develop bad neck pain or stiffness.
  • You have trouble thinking clearly.

Care Agreement:

You have the right to help plan your care. To help with this plan, you must learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. You can then discuss treatment options with your caregivers. Work with them to decide what care may be used to treat you. You always have the right to refuse treatment.

References:

1. Cohen S, Doyle WJ & Skoner DP: Psychological stress, cytokine production, and severity of upper respiratory illness. Psychosom Med 1999; 61(2):175-180.

2. Ferley JP, Zmirou D, D'Adhemar D et al: A controlled evaluation of a homeopathic preparation in the treatment of influenza-like syndromes. Br J Clin Pharmacology 1989; 27:329-335.

3. Lindenmuth GF & Lindenmuth EB: The efficacy of Echinacea compound herbal tea preparation on the severity and duration of upper respiratory and flu symptoms: a randomized, double-blind placebo-controlled study. J Alt Compl Med 2000; 6(4):327-333.

5. Sanchez A, Reeser JL, Lau HS et al: Role of sugars in human neutrophilic phagocytosis. Am J Clin Nutr 1973; 26:1180-1184.

6. Turner Cobb JM & Steptoe A: Psychosocial influences on upper respiratory infectious illness in children. J Psychosom Res 1998; 45(4):319-330.


Last Updated: 11/4/2014

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