With the cold season comes a wide array of ailments and at the top of that list is the Flu. Rita Ohai writes on the misconceptions, the symptoms and ways to prevent this disease
IF a person walks around with a runny nose, cough, a fever and constant exhaustion bugging down the muscles, they most likely have caught the flu.
In spite of the frequency with which most people in our part of Africa fall to this illness, very little is known about it.
Often, it is tagged a symptom of other diseases such as typhoid or malaria.
Explaining the nature of the disease, Dr. Charity Onabolu says, “Flu is an acute infection of the airway tract in the nose and throat that can sometimes spread down into the lungs. It is actually the most frequent cause of acute respiratory illness and it occurs every year mainly during the rainy or cold season.
“This is primarily because we tend to stay indoors more and thus have closer contact with each other due to the cold weather and this makes it easier for the virus to spread,” she said.
Many people incorrectly confuse influenza (the flu) with the common cold. Differentiating a cold from the flu by symptoms alone can sometimes be difficult, but generally, people with the flu get ill suddenly, look much sicker, and feel much weaker than when they are hit with the ailment of a common cold.
According to Dr. Charity, “Symptoms of the flu tend to start quickly and can include fever, chills, dry cough, and sore throat.
Even though people often mix-up common cold symptoms with those of the flu, the key method of separating the two is that regular cold symptoms are usually milder and don't last as long as flu symptoms.
“Fever (usually high), headache, extreme tiredness, dry cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle aches, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea may occur. Typically, the fever will begin to decline on the second or third day of the illness, but that same patient can spread the virus to other people before their symptoms start and for another 3 to 4 days after their symptoms appear,” she finished.
Due to the impact the infection of the flu-causing virus has on the immune system, complications usually appear as the patient starts to feel better. After a brief period of improvement, they may suddenly develop a bacterial infection, which can cause pneumonia in already weakened lungs. Other health issues include high fever, shaking chills, chest pain with each breath, coughing that produces thick, yellow-green mucus.
Can your diet really reduce your risk of catching a cold or influenza? Nutrition experts certainly think so.
According to Victor Shonibare, a nutritional expert, food and healthy lifestyle choices boost your immune system, and that can prevent individuals from coming down with colds and flu.
He explains how diet and other smart lifestyle choices will help avoid the sniffles, stuffy nose and aches of the cold, as well as the outright misery of influenza: “Natural food is better than dietary supplements for the prevention of colds and flu because you get the whole nutritional package.
“Drinking homemade juice from fruits like oranges and vegetables high in vitamin C will help to keep your immune system strong and healthy during cold and flu season.”
Stating further, he explains that protein sources such as lean meats, dairy, eggs and legumes are especially important because they supply the amino acids that the body needs to build the components of your immune system.
Avoiding junk foods is important too especially the ones that contain excess sugar and unhealthy fats.
Sharing simple procedures infected patients can do to help heal faster, Dr. Onabolu states, “Steam inhalations may be useful in opening up a blocked nose which will in turn make breathing easier. When the person is able to take in more oxygen, they will feel stronger and the body can fight the infection better.”
To create steam, boil water on the stove, remove the pot from the stove, then sit with a towel over your head, above the pot or bowl containing the hot water and inhale the steam.
Another simple method is steaming up the bathroom by letting the shower run with hot water only. Inhaling the moisture in a steamy room can serve a similar purpose.
8 Natural tips to help prevent flu
THERE are no known cures for colds and flu, so cold and flu prevention should be your goal. A proactive approach to ward off colds and flu is apt to make your whole life healthier. The strategies that can be employed to help prevent colds and the flu naturally are;
1 Wash your hands
Most cold and flu viruses are spread by direct contact. Someone who has the flu sneezes onto his or her hand and then touches the telephone, the keyboard, a kitchen glass. The germs can live for hours only to be picked up by the next person who touches the same object. So wash your hands often. If you can't get to a sink, rub an alcohol-based hand sanitizer onto your hands.
2 Don't cover your sneezes and coughs with your hands
Because germs and viruses cling to your bare hands, muffling coughs and sneezes with your hands often results in passing along your germs to others. When you feel a sneeze or cough coming, use a tissue, then throw it away immediately. If you don't have a tissue, cough or sneeze into the inside of your elbow.
3 Don't touch your face
Cold and flu viruses enter your body through the eyes, nose, or mouth. Touching their faces is the major way children catch colds and a key way they pass colds on to their parents.
4 Drink plenty of fluids
Water should never be the sole or main liquid consumed because it does not contain adequate electrolytes (sodium and potassium, for example) that the body requires. Adults need to add fruit juices, and clear soups like fish and chicken soup to their diet. For children, ORS (oral rehydration solution) packets are another good way to replenish the body. A similar rehydrating solution can be made at home using salt, sugar, and plain or rice water. Adding some orange juice and mashed bananas enhances the taste and also provides a good source of potassium. Such a solution can be used by anyone, regardless of age.
5 Do aerobic exercise regularly
Aerobic exercise speeds up the heart to pump larger quantities of blood; makes you breathe faster to help transfer oxygen from your lungs to your blood; and makes you sweat once your body heats up. These exercises help increase the body's natural virus-killing cells.
6 Don't smoke
Statistics show that heavy smokers get more severe colds and more frequent ones. Even being around smoke profoundly zaps the immune system.
Smoke dries out your nasal passages and paralyzes cilia, these are the delicate hairs in the nose and lungs that sweep cold and flu viruses out of the nasal passages.
7 Cut alcohol consumption
Heavy alcohol use suppresses the immune system in a variety of ways. Heavier drinkers are more prone to initial infections as well as secondary complications. Alcohol also dehydrates the body .It actually causes more fluid loss from your system than it puts in.
If you can teach yourself to relax, you may be able to rev up your immune system. Keep in mind, relaxation is a learnable skill.
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