Influenza, commonly known as flu is a viral disease caused by RNA viruses belonging to the Orthomyxoviridae family. This include influenza A, B and C viruses. These viruses attack the respiratory system; the nose, throat, and the lungs giving rise to running nose, burning eyes, watering of eyes, sore throat, fever and many other symptoms that we will discuss in details later on.
Epidemics of influenza generally occur in winter months. These epidemics begin abruptly, reach its peak within 2 to 3 weeks and subsequently last for 2 to 3 months. Influenza A causes extensive and severe outbreaks while influenza B virus cause less severe outbreaks and influenza C rarely causes disease in humans.
Most people who suffer from influenza become better without any complications. However, this depends on a person’s immunity and the amount of virulence and severity of the disease. Young children, old people, pregnant women, people suffering from AIDS, or people who are taking immune suppressing drugs are at a greater susceptibility of getting infected by these contagious virus.
What Are The Major Symptoms Of Influenza?
Since influenza is a contagious disease, it is necessary to know the symptoms as early as possible to avoid further complication and also prevent its spread. The virus replicates rapidly within 4 to 6 hours once it enters the body. Its severity of symptoms may vary from person to person and their health status. It also depends on the strain of virus affection. However, the most common symptoms noted are;
- Fever: there is an abrupt onset of moderate to high fever. Generally the temperature does not rise more than 100 degrees F. In case if the fever is high, it may be associated with chills and shivering. Since there are many other diseases having similar high fever, it is necessary to look out for other symptoms of influenza.
- Muscles and joint pains: pain in joints and body ache is tremendous.
- Pain in orbits and burning of eyes.
- Headache in front and back of the head.
- Sore throat and cough which is non productive.
- Running nose and itching in the nose which causes frequent sneezing.
- Extreme tiredness.
- Respiratory symptoms become more prominent once the systemic symptoms become better.
The illness generally lasts for 3 to 5 days and most patients recover within a week if there is no complication. In minority of patients, weakness and may last for several weeks after the illness.
Influenza Incubation Period
Incubation period is the time interval between the entry of disease causing germs into the body and its manifestation of symptoms. Normally the incubation period of influenza virus is 1 to 4 days with an average of 2 days. Influenza is highly contagious virus which spreads from person to person through respiratory droplets.
Using common clothing, handkerchief, and other dining utensils can be source of transmission. The virus shedding stops within 2 to 5 days of the symptoms appearing. However, some children are known to spread the disease for many days after the onset of the symptoms.
Common Complications Of Influenza
Pneumonia: The most common complication of influenza is pneumonia. It can be primary viral pneumonia or can be due to secondary bacterial infection. Primary viral influenza pneumonia has predilection for patients with mitral stenosis. It presents as acute influenza but does not resolve and progresses to breathlessness, high fever, and cyanosis (blue discoloration of skin, tongue and lips and nails).
Reye’s syndrome: is a known complication of influenza B infection. It is marked by onset of nausea and vomiting, followed by lethargy, confusion, seizures and coma. There is enlargement of liver and spleen with elevation of SGPT, SGOT and LDH. Especially when Aspirin is used to control temperature and body ache, the chances of Reye’s syndrome are more. Therefore Aspirin is contraindicated in viral influenza. The syndrome can be fatal at times.
Sinus and Ear infection, Guillian -Barre syndrome, pericarditis, and encephalitis are other known possible complications.
Home Remedies For Influenza Virus
Antibiotics have no effect on influenza virus and for this reason they are not useful in treating influenza. Some antivirus medication can be used to shorten the duration as well as their virility. However they are effective only when used in the beginning phase. More over many strain of virus have become resistant to this anti- virus medication.
Keeping this perspective in mind, many people consider rest, plenty of fluid and home remedies as the main stay for curing the disease. Here are some of the home remedies which are useful:
- Drink cup of warm water mixed with few drops of lemon juice and 1 to 2 teaspoon of honey at least 3 to 4 times in a day. This will allow easy flow of nasal secretions, lemon juice contains vitamin C which will boost up the immune system and honey has natural ingredients to heal respiratory tract infections.
- Boil bayberry bark 1 teaspoon, few pieces of grated ginger, and a pinch of cayenne pepper powder for 15 minutes in a cup of water. Strain the liquid and drink half cup of prepared concoction two to three times in a day.
- Take one tsp of honey and one teaspoon of onion juice two to three times in a day.
- Mix one teaspoon of turmeric powder in two teaspoons of honey. Mix it well and consume it two to three times in a day.
- You can also mix a pinch of turmeric powder in a cup of warm milk and consume it two to three times in a day.
- Grapefruit juice is another effective home remedy to alleviate the symptoms of influenza.