Influenza—or the “flu,” as it’s more commonly known—can be the bane of a person’s existence for a few days, often bringing with it the miseries of fever and chills, congestion, headache, nausea, vomiting, and other digestive upsets. For most people it’s merely an inconvenience (although it feels more momentous when one is suffering with it), but for very young children, the elderly, and those with pre-existing health conditions, it can actually pose a more serious threat.
Avoid the Spread of the Flu
The flu is a viral illness, and one of the most basic ways to avoid its misery is to take measures to avoid picking up the virus itself. A person who has the flu virus is most contagious in the days before symptoms emerge, so precautions should be taken on a regular basis during flu season. Washing hands frequently, particularly after handling items like doorknobs which get a lot of “hand traffic,” can remove the live virus from your own hands before it has a chance to get into your internal system. If you’re able to avoid environments like airplanes and crowded rooms where you’d be at the mercy of an airborne virus, you increase your chances of avoiding it altogether.
Get a Flu Shot
The flu vaccine is designed anew every year, anticipating the mutations and alterations to the virus which are likely to be prevalent in the upcoming flu season. Although the vaccine is not a bulletproof guarantee against contracting the flu, it greatly reduces your chances of coming down with the illness if you’re exposed. This is particularly important for children, older people, and those with respiratory conditions for whom the flu might be a danger rather than an inconvenience.
There are a few types of people for whom the flu shot can be dangerous; namely, those with egg allergies, those with Guillain-Barré syndrome, those who have had negative reactions to previous vaccinations, and infants younger than six months (except in cases where other health conditions make the risk of a flu infection more dire than the risk of the vaccination—a decision which should be made by the child’s pediatrician).
Relieve Flu Symptoms
If you aren’t successful in avoiding the flu, you can take some measures to alleviate the symptoms, and even speed up the course of your illness for a quicker recovery. The single most effective way to aid your recovery from flu is to rest. Stay home and sleep, and let your body heal itself. Taking Tylenol can lower a fever and relieve achiness, and Vitamin C, zinc, and even garlic can help reduce symptoms and boost recovery time. Be sure to drink fluids, as your body needs them in the process of fighting off infection, and dehydration is often an effect of the illness.
There are now antiviral medications available, which don’t cure the flu, but do alleviate the severity of the affliction. Anti-nausea drugs are also available by prescription if you ask your physician. If a flu sufferer becomes too severely dehydrated and can’t keep liquids down, an IV saline infusion may be called for.