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Influenza – causes, side effects and treatments at

Wednesday, April 25, 2018 by

Influenza is caused by viruses that infect the respiratory tract. This infectious disease is usually called “the flu.”

Flu symptoms often include chills, cough, and fever. Once infected, the incubation period for flu is at least one to four days.

Influenza is contagious, and patients may experience its symptoms for seven to 14 days. The flu may spread via both direct (e.g. person to person by airborne droplets produced when sneezing or coughing) and indirect contact (e.g. when coming into contact with contaminated droplets on various surfaces).

There are three types of influenza viruses:

  • Type A
  • Type B
  • Type C

Influenza A and influenza B usually cause epidemics of respiratory illness that happen every winter. These epidemics are often linked with high hospitalization and death rates.

Influenza type C is different from the first two types because it causes either a very mild respiratory illness or a patient will have no symptoms at all. It doesn’t cause epidemics like influenza types A and B. The majority of efforts to control the impact of influenza are directed at types A and B.

Known side effects of influenza

The side effects of influenza usually include:

  • Cough
  • Fatigue/tiredness
  • Fever or feeling feverish/chills — Note that not all patients will have a fever.
  • Headaches
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Sore throat
  • Vomiting and diarrhea — This symptom is more common in children than in adults.

Body systems harmed by influenza

Most cases of influenza are not serious. However, these individuals may experience severe complications due to the flu:

  • Adults older than 65
  • Babies or young children
  • Individuals taking steroids
  • Patients with chest problems (e.g. asthma or bronchitis)
  • Patients with diabetes
  • Patients with kidney disease
  • Patients with longstanding diseases that weaken the immune system
  • Patients undergoing cancer treatment
  • People with heart or cardiovascular disease
  • Pregnant women

Influenza may cause complications such as:

  • Bacterial pneumonia
  • Dehydration
  • Sinus problems and ear infections — Usually occurs among children.
  • Worsening of chronic medical conditions (e.g. asthma, congestive heart failure, or diabetes)

Food items or nutrients that may prevent influenza

The following foods or nutrients can help prevent influenza and they can help you recover if you already have the flu:

  • Broccoli — Broccoli is chock-full of nutrients that your body will need when you have the flu. A single serving contains vitamins C and E that can boost your immune system. Broccoli also has calcium and fiber.
  • Chicken soup — Homemade chicken soup combines soothing broth and other nutritious ingredients. Chicken contains iron and protein. Additionally, chicken soup has carrots, celery, and herbs that contain various nutrients. Just make sure your chicken soup has little to no salt.
  • Fruits with vitamin C — Vitamin C is a crucial nutrient that will make your immune system stronger. Sources include citrus fruits, tomatoes, and strawberries.
  • Garlic — Garlic can boost immunity and minimize symptom severity.
  • Leafy greens — Sources include kale and spinach. These vegetables can also make your immune system stronger when you have the flu because they contain both vitamin C and vitamin E.
  • Yogurt — Yogurt with live cultures and protein can help soothe a sore throat. Additionally, yogurt can strengthen the immune system. Buy whole yogurts without added sugars.

Treatments, management plans for influenza

Since influenza is caused by a virus, antibiotics cannot treat it. If the flu has resulted in another illness caused by bacteria, antivirals may be prescribed in some cases.

Patients with the flu should:

  1. Stay at home.
  2. Avoid contact with other people whenever possible.
  3. Stay warm and rest.
  4. Stay hydrated.
  5. Avoid alcohol and stop smoking.
  6. Eat when possible.

Consult a healthcare professional immediately when:

  • The patient is frail or elderly.
  • The patient’s temperature remains high after four to five days.
  • Their symptoms worsen.
  • The individual feels gravely ill.
  • Patients are short of breath and/or develop chest pain.

Where to learn more


Influenza is caused by viruses that infect the respiratory tract. This infectious disease is usually called “the flu.”

The side effects of influenza usually include a cough, fatigue/tiredness, and a fever or feeling feverish/chills.

Most cases of influenza are not serious. However, some individuals may experience severe complications. People at risk for complications include very young children, in the elderly, and people with other longstanding illness that can weaken their immune system.

Broccoli, chicken soup, fruits with vitamin C, garlic, leafy greens, and yogurt can help prevent influenza.

Since influenza is caused by a virus, antibiotics cannot treat it. If the flu has resulted in another illness caused by bacteria, antivirals (e.g. oseltamivir (Tamiflu) and zanamivir (Relenza)) may be prescribed in some cases.

Patients with the flu should stay at home, avoid contact with other people whenever possible, stay warm and rest, stay hydrated, avoid alcohol and stop smoking, and eat when possible.

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