The flu is a common and extremely contagious respiratory infection that affects up to 1 billion people each year. It is normally caused by a strain of the influenza virus and it is almost impossible to build up a resistance to all forms of the infection due to its ever evolving nature. Here at A.Vogel Talks Flu, our immune system expert Dr. Jen Ten will be taking a look at the symptoms and causes of the flu, as well as giving helpful advice about home and herbal remedies to combat the illness. You can also ask Dr. Tan any question about flu using our Q&A service.
Flu, shortened from influenza, is an infection of the upper respiratory system which is extremely contagious. Although the common cold and flu share similar symptoms, they are quite different infections. Flu is caused by a specific group of viruses known as the influenza virus whereas colds can be caused by over 200 viruses.
There are a number of different strains of flu, such as swine flu and avian flu (also known as bird flu), with more forming as the virus mutates. This is why people continue to come down with the flu each year and that there is the need to renew the flu vaccination each winter.
The flu virus can be spread from one person to the next from day one and before symptoms appear. Hence, it is possible to spread the flu before one notices symptoms.
You can be infected with a flu virus for up to two days before symptoms appear. Unlike a cold, when flu symptoms appear, they arrive quickly and often unexpectedly.
Flu symptoms generally follow a specific pattern, starting with a fever, excessive sweating or night sweats and aching muscles, developing into cold-like symptoms and leaving you feeling fatigued for a week or more after the other symptoms have disappeared.
In some people with a weakened immune system, flu symptoms can be more severe with complications and it is important to seek medical attention.
Flu symptoms overlap with symptoms of the common cold. Severe symptoms of cold are often interpreted as flu. In reality, it is difficult to tell the difference between a cold and flu without medical tests to identify the viral cause.
Home remedies – there is a variety of remedies for flu which can be found in your kitchen cupboard. An example is a cup of tea which will keep you hydrated, as well as the warmth soothing your throat, with the steam clearing a blocked nose.
There are measures you can take to prevent picking up flu infections. The flu jab (flu vaccination) is usually advised by doctors for certain groups of people, such as the over 65s, pregnant women and those who have a weaker immune system.
As well as this, there are certain lifestyle steps which you can employ to reduce your chances of getting the flu.
In many cases, flu is unpleasant while it lasts but does not require medical attention to get better. However, in some cases it is advisable to see a doctor.
It is important to remember that the flu is not just a bad cold but has the potential to be a serious health risk particularly among children, the elderly and those with an underlying health condition.
If you experience severe or persistent symptoms or develop a complication of the flu such as a persistent cough or severe fever, it may be necessary to go to the doctor. If you are worried about your condition, it is always important to seek medical attention.
Echinacea is a traditional herb known to aid the body in its fight against colds and flu by supporting the immune system – but not all Echinacea is the same! Research shows that the fresher the herb, the more effective the remedy will be, which is why our Echinaforce cold and flu remedies are made using freshly harvested Echinacea.