Excerpted from "A Year of Health Hints"
365 Practical Ways to Feel Better and Live Longer
"Oh, it's just a touch of the flu," some say, as if
they had nothing more than a cold. Yet each year, 50,000 people
die from pneumonia and other complications of the influenza
virus, or flu.
Cold and flu symptoms resemble each other, but they differ in
intensity. A cold generally starts out with some minor sniffling
and sneezing, but the flu hits you all at once; you're fine one
hour and in bed the next. A cold rarely moves into the lungs; the
flu can cause pneumonia. You may be able to drag yourself to work
with a cold, but with a flu you'll be too ill to leave your bed.
If the following symptoms come on suddenly and intensely, you
probably have the flu.
aches or backache
Fever up to 104
Pain when you move
your eyes, or a burning sensation in the eyes
The most telling symptoms in that list are fatigue and muscle
aches--these are normally absent with a cold.
To avoid getting the flu in the first place, medical authorities
recommend an influenza vaccination before each flu season for
people over age 65 or anyone with a chronic medical illness that
would hinder their ability to fight off the flu on their own. The
influenza vaccine should be given in September, October or
November of each year. Also, get plenty of rest, eat well, and
exercise regularly to stay strong and fight off the flu.
The anti-viral medicines amantadine or rimantadine may be
prescribed. [Note: In order for rimantadine to be effective, it
must be taken within the first 48 hours of the onset of symptoms
of the flu.] Antibiotics (to combat any bacterial infection, if
also present) may also be prescribed by your doctor.
Other suggestions include:
Drink plenty of
hot (but not scalding) liquids. They'll soothe your throat,
relieve nasal congestion,
and replace bodily
fluids lost through perspiration caused by fever.
Gargle with tepid,
strong tea or warm salt water.
Suck on lozenges
or hard candies to lubricate your throat. (Do not give to
children under age 5.)
Don't suppress a
cough that produces phlegm or sputum-it helps rid the respiratory
tract of mucus.
(In other words, avoid
cough suppressant medicines.) If mucus is bloody, yellow, or
your physician for
milk or eating cheese and other dairy products for a couple of
days-they can thicken
making them difficult to expel.
Wash your hands
frequently, especially after blowing your nose and before
handling food. (This also
helps you avoid
spreading the flu virus to others.)
Take a regular
dose of aspirin or aspirin substitute. (Note: Aspirin should not
be given to children
under 19 years old,
however, when they have chicken pox or flu-like symptoms, as it
has been linked
to an increased risk
of Reye's syndrome, a potentially fatal condition that is
discussed in chapter 2,
Conditions: Prevention, Detection, and Treatment.)
If the symptoms persist despite self-care efforts, see a