Influenza is a common viral infection of the respiratory system, including the nose, throat,
bronchial tubes and lungs. Vaccination is the best defense against getting the flu. Following is information about flu vaccinations for the public at Mayo Clinic.
What is flu?
Influenza, commonly shortened to "flu," is an extremely contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza A or B viruses. Flu appears most
frequently in winter and early spring. The flu virus attacks the body by spreading through the upper and/or lower respiratory tract.
What's the difference between a cold and flu?
The common cold and flu are both contagious viral infections of the respiratory tract. Although the symptoms can be similar, flu is much worse. A cold may drag you down a bit, but the flu can make
you shudder at the very thought of getting out of bed.
Congestion, sore throat, and sneezing are common with colds. Both cold and flu bring coughing, headache, and chest discomfort. With the flu, though, you are likely to run a high fever for several
days and have headache, myalgia, fatigue, and weakness. Usually, complications from colds are relatively minor, but a severe case of flu can lead to a life-threatening illness such as
More than 100 types of cold viruses are known, and new strains of flu evolve every few years. Since both diseases are viral, antibiotics cannot conquer cold or flu. Remember: Antibiotics only treat
A few antiviral medications are available to treat flu. But there are no medications that specifically defeat the common cold. Antibiotics may be helpful if there is a secondary bacterial
The flu treatment you should take depends on your symptoms. For example, if you have nasal or sinus congestion, then a decongestant can be helpful.
Decongestants come oral or nasal spray forms. Decongestants are used to reduce swelling in the nasal passageways. However, nasal spray decongestants should not be used for more than a few days
because, if they are used too long and then stopped, they can cause rebound symptoms.
If you have a runny nose, postnasal drip, or itchy, watery eyes -- then an antihistamine may be helpful for your flu symptoms. Antihistamines block the effect of "histamine," and help relieve such
annoying symptoms as sneezing, itching, and nasal discharge.
Over-the-counter antihistamines often make people drowsy, whereas decongestants can make people hyper or keep them awake. Keep in mind that both decongestants and antihistamines can interact with
other drugs you may be taking, and they may aggravate some conditions. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist about which flu symptom treatment is best for you.
Breathe Aromatic Steam: Fill the bathroom or kitchen sink with steaming water, and add two teaspoons chopped fresh ginger (Zingiber officinalis). Drape a towel over your head and lean over the steam
to get maximum benefit. Or add one teaspoon of the over-the-counter ointment Vicks VapoRub® to the steaming water, then breathe in the steam for several minutes until you get relief. Another flu
remedy is to add a few drops of oil of eucalyptus (Eucalyptus globulus) or menthol to the water. Eucalyptus is known to open up bronchial tubes, ease congestion, and make breathing easier.
Take a Warm Shower: Getting in a warm shower with the bathroom door closed works as your own personal sauna. The steamy bathroom helps to open your airways and moisten and thin the mucus in your
Increase Liquids: Stay well-hydrated by drinking at least 8 cups (64 ounces) of water each day. Water keeps your respiratory system hydrated, which helps to liquefy thick mucus that builds up with a
respiratory infection. Some findings show that hot liquids may be superior to cold liquids in upper respiratory infections. Other liquids can be added, but don't depend on coffee, tea, or alcoholic
beverages as these liquids may cause dehydration.
Use Moist Heat Compresses: If your head is throbbing and it's difficult
to breathe through your nose, you may find relief by applying warm moist compresses to the cheeks and sinuses. If you use moist heat, make sure it's not too hot to avoid skin injury. Call your Dr if
sx last more than 5 days, difficulty breathing or symptoms progress rapidly.MayoClinic