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.
- Dry cough
- Nasal congestion
- Dense yellow-green nasal secretions
- Lack of appetite
- Feeling tired
- Muscle soreness and pain
- Sore throat
- Sneezing Chills
- High fever (over 39,5°C/103 °F)
- Acute headache
- Sudden onset of symptoms
Antibiotics have no effect on the flu because they cannot target the flu virus and for this reason, doctors are unwilling to prescribe them unless there is a clear cause such as a chest infection.
In severe cases of the flu, antiviral drugs are sometimes prescribed. These are associated with side effects:
Oseltamivir is a drug to treat influenza type A and B viruses. It works by preventing the multiplication of flu viruses. These drugs are taken orally in tablet form
Zanamivir also treats influenza types A and B flu viruses. It comes in powder form which is inhaled via the mouth. It also works by preventing the multiplication of viral cells
These are also known as over-the-counter (OTC) medicines. There are many flu remedies available from your pharmacy to treat your symptoms:
Painkillers and anti-inflammatories such as paracetamol, aspirin or ibuprofen form the basis of the commonly known cold and flu remedies. These should be taken with care to prevent overdose
Cough syrups are available for dry, tickly and chesty coughs
Decongestants are available to help clear a blocked nose or sinuses. Many of these treatments can only be taken short-term in case of side-effects or recurrent symptoms.
Many people look for herbal remedies to treat their flu symptoms. These include:
Echinacea – this is a popular herb used for treating symptoms of colds and flu. It works by strengthening the immune system, increasing the body’s resistance to infection.
Echinacea has been shown in research to reduce the severity and number of days of infection if taken while suffering from flu symptoms
There is a variety of herbal cough syrups such as those which include extracts of fresh spruce for dry or tickly coughs, and others which combine ivy and thyme for chesty coughs.
Herbal nasal sprays have an advantage over conventional medicine nasal sprays, as the body is less likely to be affected by rebound congestion.
There are a variety of measures to employ at home which will help relieve mild to moderate flu symptoms:
- Drink plenty – water will keep you hydrated and will help make your symptoms feel better. Hot drinks are good for clearing the congestion of a blocked nose and soothing your throat. Alcohol is inadvisable as it can cause dehydration
- Rest – if you can’t face getting out of bed and going to work, then your body may be telling you something. If you get enough rest, this will help your immune system fight the infection. Rushing about when you are sick will do you no favours and will increase your risk of a secondary infection.
- Take a steamy bath or shower – the steam will help clear your nasal passages
- Keep a proper sleep routine – your immune system won’t thank you if you don’t keep to a regular system, and this will make it harder to fight the infection. If you are struggling to sleep at night
- Take Vitamin C
- Consider avoiding mucus forming foods such as dairy products
- Avoid "sweets" and sugar added foods as much as possible
- Read Bryce’s Top Ten Flu-Fighter Tips
- Because of congestion, try keeping your head elevated with pillows.
Echinacea (Echinacea purpurea) is probably the most famous of all the herbs used for immune function. The most important thing to understand with Echinaforce is that it improves the efficiency of the immune system. This is very different from the commonly held belief that it stimulates the immune system.
Most people do not need their immune system stimulated; often, all that is needed is for the immune system to work more effectively.
Scientists working in the field of phytotherapy now refer to Echinacea as an immunomodulator rather than an immunostimulant.
Echinaforce improves the way the immune system recognises pathogens. Immune system cells respond more rapidly, increasing the chances that the pathogen will be dealt with before it can damage the body. As pathogen recognition is improved, there is less likelihood that healthy cells will be attacked in error.
With the first signs of tickling in the throat, muscle aches, chills, cough or congestion, Echinaforce® Extra comes to the rescue for fast relief. The active components in Echinaforce Extra are clinically proven to inhibit the replication of infectious agents and triple the rate of phagocytosis - the body’s ‘first defense’.
A.Vogel Echinaforce® Extra-Strength Hot Drink is a natural and effective combination of Echinacea purpurea and Elderberry designed to help combat common cold and flu symptoms and relieve upper respiratory tract infections.
For the relief of mild cold and flu symptoms use Echinaforce® Original Formula:
Drops are Excellent for people with digestive problems, as they do not need to be digested before the active ingredients are released. Tablets are also available for those who find tablets more convenient.
Echinaforce® Junior is recommended for children. It has a pleasant, natural orange flavour. The tablets are tooth friendly and the natural lactose-free sweetness will not affect diabetics.
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.