It’s the same story every year, once the month of November arrives, cases of influenza multiply all over Europe to quickly reach, at a minimum, the 10% to 15% of the sick population on the old continent.
If the majority have almost no trouble recovering from it, this is not the case for subjects who are already weak, or considered “at risk”. Thus, during the influenza period of 2014, the inVS reported the frightening figures of more than 90,000 deaths in 13 (of the 15) countries which voluntarily participate in the surveillance of this phenomenon in Europe.
Many of these deaths are due to a lack of information, as well as a lack of diligence in taking appropriate treatments. Because if there is a good chance of getting out of an influenza without damaging your health, it is above all thanks to the many drugs, more and more effective and controlled, which are frequently put on the market.
Understanding the flu, what is this disease?
What is called influenza, is a disease resulting from a virus (known as Influenza or Influenzavirus in the medical profession) whose field of action attacks, almost always first, the respiratory capacities of the individual. Then the whole body is usually affected by the many flu symptoms.
If it is still so difficult to treat influenza today, it is because this virus has a habit of changing its shape with each new epidemic. It is therefore a new virus that emerges every year, which makes the vaccines of the past year completely useless. Pharmaceutical companies are therefore obliged to adapt them to the new virus (as well as its characteristics) as soon as the latter is identified.
One flu for several viruses
With an acute phase difficult to endure on a daily basis, the flu is usually cured quickly (European averages are around 3 to 7 days for all flu symptoms to disappear). It is precisely during the acute phase that the main symptoms of influenza appear and prevent the sick individual from carrying out his activities. It is then necessary to rest as much as possible during the period when the fever is highest, in order to then avoid possible complications.
To answer the question “what is the flu?” it is necessary to specify that there are several. 3 different types of viruses to be precise:
- Type A virus: This is the rarest type of flu (it only triggers on average 2 to 4 influenza type A pandemics per century), but it is also the deadliest virus. Among the sadly famous examples known to all, there is the Spanish flu (20,000,000 people died), the H1N1 flu or even the avian flu. The latter two have seen much lower death rates, although the type A virus is still complicated for healthcare professionals to treat because its main characteristic is that it mutates extremely quickly once it enters the body. organization. The immune system of the individual who is affected therefore does not have time to build sufficiently strong immune defenses to fight the influenza virus effectively.
- Type B virus: It is much more common, but fortunately it is also much less serious for the sick individual. In the case of Type B influenza, Influenza does not have time to mutate when its presence is detected by the body, allowing the immune system to react accordingly and eradicate the disease within a few days.
- Type C virus: Even more common than Type B, it is even less dangerous than the latter. Most cases are not even detected because the symptoms are very similar to those caused by a common cold.
Stop preconceived ideas!
The flu is not caused by environmental factors like the cold.
Yes, it is still (unfortunately) the idea which is still anchored in the collective imagination, even though it dates from the 14th century and is totally false! As proof, areas with a hot climate throughout the year are also severely affected by the influenza virus every year, quite simply because there is no seasonal flu!
Part of the truth in this myth is due to the fact that in winter, people tend to stay locked in their homes, which is a factor conducive to the contagion of the virus (like the dry air, which is common in winter, which inevitably dry out the nasal mucous membranes and help carry the virus from one individual to another more easily).
Winter is therefore a favorable period for the development and contagion of influenza, but the cold is not a factor in this spread! If you catch a cold, no scientific evidence exists showing that your immune system is less able to fight the flu (because it is supposedly weakened), while many studies are carried out on the subject every year!
What are the symptoms of the flu?
Flu symptoms have many similarities to symptoms caused by a common cold. However, those developed because of the Influenza virus are much more “violent”, and require the consultation of a doctor quickly. He will then prescribe an effective treatment to combat the symptoms of this disease, and you will then see them reduce, then disappear, within 24 to a few days.
In detail, flu symptoms are manifested in 3 stages (although the order and intensity of the different symptoms may vary, depending on the body of the individual who has it):
- Chills and muscle pain throughout the body (signs of a high fever that should not be underestimated, generally ranging from 38.5 ° C to 40 ° C). Note, however, that adults over 65, and children under 5, affected by the virus, tend to have a much lower fever. These symptoms linked to the fever caused by the flu, can be accompanied by headaches (headache), sore throats, frequent sneezing and of course, great fatigue forcing the patient to lie down.
- Deterioration of the respiratory system: a cough that intensifies and becomes drier, a runny nose and a painful sensation in the chest.
- “Additional” symptoms , which vary according to the type of virus: for example, symptoms of gastroenteritis can be the result of stomach flu, frequently diagnosed in children under 10 years of age. It is also possible to contract joint pain, inability to sleep properly (drowsiness, night sweats) or a sensation of burning eyes.
Most of these symptoms can be the result of another disease, which is why it is essential to seek the advice of a health professional, who can make an accurate diagnosis and detect (or not) the presence influenza virus in your body.
The main treatments to fight effectively against the flu.
There are no miracle treatments for the flu because it is a viral illness. For example, antibiotics have no effect in treating this disease. This is why, depending on the individual’s body, the doctor will start by prescribing drugs to relieve the main troublesome symptoms of the flu (fever, aches, pains, cough). In the majority of cases, these medications are sufficient to allow the sick individual to fully recover from the flu within a few days.
For people showing signs of weakening, or having a more fragile immune system, it will be necessary to help the body by the use of an antiviral.
There are two families of antivirals to fight the flu:
- The classic antiviral: Consist of the injection of a molecule whose mission is to fight the influenza virus, by slowing down (then preventing) its development and multiplication in the heart of the patient’s body. They can be used both in prevention (when an “at risk” individual has been exposed with certainty to the virus) and in relief (to fight the virus if the flu has already set in). Among the classic antivirals, the best known are amantadine and rimantadine. However, for several years, scientific laboratories have observed a notable drop in their effectiveness because, unlike the influenza virus which is constantly evolving, these antivirals have not evolved.
- New antivirals called “neuraminidase inhibitors”: It is, in a way, the evolution of conventional antivirals having adapted to the new specificities of the virus. They are therefore more effective (both in prevention and in relief) and the best known of these antivirals has oseltamivir as an active ingredient (the name of the drug is Tamiflu®.
Home remedies to fight the flu without drugs.
To avoid heading for pharmaceutical treatment (such as the antivirals presented above), there are many “homemade” ways that, in principle, make you feel better. Some of these remedies (and their benefits) have been scientifically proven, others are simply a “grandmother’s cure” for the flu, the benefits of which have spread by word of mouth over the decades.
In this list, we do not specify the obvious: it is of course necessary to rest as much as possible and to drink water regularly so as not to end up dehydrated.
Home & natural remedies to use in flu prevention:
- Ginseng (plant): strengthens the immune system and reduces the risk of catching the virus.
- Echinacea (plant): May also be effective in preventing colds.
- Astragalus (Root): Increases the body’s resistance to viral-type infections
- Ginger : It seems that the consumption of ginger would be beneficial in the fight against infections targeting the respiratory system of individuals (such as the flu, or the common cold).
Home & Natural Remedies For Flu Relief:
- Andrographis (plant): used for centuries in the treatment of fever and infections of the respiratory system. Since then, its benefits have been scientifically proven.
- Echinacea (plant)
- Oscillococcinum (or Homeopathy): scientific studies are struggling to demonstrate its effectiveness.
- Black elderberry (berries): to be taken in syrup to slow down the development of flu symptoms.
- Black elderberry (flowers): traditionally used to lower fever.
- White Willow (plant): effective against rheumatism, muscle pain and relief of fever.
- Food (chicken broth, stop lactose & sugar during periods at high risk of virus development).
- Chinese natural preparations (Xiao Chai Hu Wan / Yin Qiao San / Yu Ping Feng San)
In addition, it is necessary to consult a doctor when your fever has not dropped below 38.5 ° C for more than 72 hours, or if you feel severe pain in the chest (respiratory system).