The flu is probably the most common illness that affects every person in their life. Sometimes it is contracted every year while at other times there may be a gap of a few flu-free years. Most of us do not think of a flu as being serious. There are intense symptoms for 2 to 3 days and it resolves on its own thereafter. However, this seemingly mild infection causes up to half a million deaths worldwide every year.
Is there a cure for the flu?
No. There is no cure for the seasonal influenza infection, also commonly referred to as the flu. Despite several claims by both mainstream and complementary medicine in the past, the flu is still incurable. One of the main reasons is that the flu virus mutates rapidly and the infection is usually so short but intense that treatment may not yield the desired results by the time the body overcomes the infection on its own.
Read more about the seasonal flu.
There are both treatment and prevention options. Treatment relies primarily on the use of antiviral drugs such as oseltamivir, zanamivir, peramivir, amantadine and rimantadine. These drugs work best if used within the first 48 hours of the symptoms arising. At most it will shorten the duration of the flu, minimize the severity of the symptoms and can help to prevent complications. However, it does not instantly cure the flu.
Prevention of the flu is mainly through the use of flu vaccines. These vaccines change every season depending on the strains of the influenza viruses that may strike in a specific region. However, a vaccine is not a cure either. While it can prevent an infection, some people will still get the flu despite having taken the vaccine. The vaccine may minimize the severity and duration of the infection even if the flu strikes. A vaccine is also not a cure.
Flu Home Remedies for Fast Relief
Antiviral drugs are not prescribed for every person with the flu. It should only be used in people who are at high risk of complications, have a severe case of the flu, have pre-existing diseases and/or are hospitalized. For those people who do not meet these criteria, a few simple dietary and lifestyle remedies can be used within the home to ease some of the symptoms and assist with a rapid recovery.
Read more on how to treat a cold.
Strict Bed Rest
The importance of bed rest during the flu cannot be overstated. Strict bed rest is usually advised but not every person can stay in bed for prolonged hours. Even if you have to move around, ensure that you do not undertake any vigorous physical activity. Exercising must be avoided entirely during this time and even daily chores that may cause exertion should be skipped for a few days. Bed rest helps prevent additional strain to the body while it overcomes the infection.
Plenty of Fluids
Drink plenty of fluids when down with the flu as it has a host of benefits. Fluid intake is particularly important in the event of fever and sweating. It helps to prevent dehydration and an oral rehydrating solution (ORS) is the better option in this regard. Fluid intake should be at least 64 ounces (almost 2 liters) daily but can be increased further if necessary. Apart from water and oral rehydrating solutions, other beverages will also suffice but alcohol and caffeine should be avoided.
Eat Nutritious Meals
Good nutrition is especially important as the body fights off the influenza virus and recovers from the strain of the infection on the body. Meals should contain sufficient macronutrients (carbohydrates, proteins and fats) as well as micronutrients (vitamins and minerals). Avoid preservatives and processed foods. Some people find that spicy foods give a boost in energy levels. This is short-lived and should not be overdone. Also consume foods high in antioxidants, particularly fruits and vegetables. Berries like blueberries are high in these antixodants.
Use A Nasal Spray
A saline nasal spray can help to flush the nasal and sinus passages. This helps to prevent secondary bacterial infections that sometimes follows viral infections such as the flu. It also helps prevent nasal dryness which can sometimes follow the nasal congestion seen in a flu. Decongestant sprays may also help with the nasal congestion but should be used in moderation. Nasal irrigation using a neti pot can also be useful but a saline nasal spray is often the preferred option.
Steam has several benefits for the symptoms of the flu. It helps to ‘loosen’ mucus that causes nasal congestion and a productive cough. A humidifier in the room where you are resting is helpful to keep the air moist. Take a hot shower where plenty of steam fills the air is another option. A bowel of hot water can also be useful – inhale the steam by covering your head and the bowel with a towel. Sometimes simple remedies like menthol and eucalyptus added to the water will produce an aromatic steam to help soothe the respiratory passages and thin mucus.
Gargle with Salt Water
A simple salt water solution used as a gargle can help to soothe the throat and act as a crude antibacterial to prevent throat infections. Common table salt dissolved in clean drinking water is all that is needed. It also helps to thin and flush out mucus in the throat. Never swallow the salt water. Gargle with this solution a few times in a day. While this is a simple home remedy, it is advisable to speak to a doctor. A throat infection may eventually require antibiotics as a salt water garle will not suffice in these cases.
NOTE: Always seek medical attention from a doctor. If the flu is severe and there are signs of complications it is important to not wait and go through immediately to the emergency room. High risk individuals like pregnant women, young children and the elderly should use the prescribed treatment rather than relying solely on these home remedies. If the symptoms of a flu are not easing after 3 days, it is important to see a doctor immediately.