Influenza Symptoms to Look Out for and Alternative Remedies to Try
Published | 6 min read
Catching the flu is usually seen as not a big deal, but it's infectious and could lead to more serious complications. Learn more about influenza symptoms and treatments.
In early to mid-2022, Malaysia suffered from an influenza outbreak. Experts think tha
Learn what influenza is, the symptoms to look out for, and some remedies you can take.
What is Influenza?
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines influenza as a contagious respiratory illness that infects the nose, throat, and sometimes the lungs.
What causes influenza?
As the name suggests, it’s caused by the influenza virus. There are two types of the virus, A (H1N1) and B (H3N2). Between these two types, influenza A is more common.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), the changes in weather conditions cause the flu. This brings six external pathogens that affect our health – Wind (feng,
What are the symptoms?
Part of why influenza isn’t taken seriously is that most people confuse it with the common cold. Although both diseases attack the respiratory system, influenza symptoms differ from the common cold.
|Development of the Symptoms||Sudden||Gradual|
|Loss of Appetite||Common||Sometimes|
|Shortness of Breath||Sometimes||Mild|
|Cough & Chest Discomfort||Common||Mild to Moderate|
|Runny Nose & Sore Throat||Sometimes||Common|
|Loss of Taste & Smell||Sometimes||Sometimes|
How influenza is diagnosed
Because of the similarities between influenza and other respiratory illnesses, it might not be easy to diagnose it based on symptoms alone. Rapid virus testing that takes around 15 minutes could be helpful.
How does influenza spread?
Influenza is contagious. The virus spreads from flu patients through tiny droplets they release when they cough, sneeze or talk. Healthy people will get infected when the airborne virus particles come in contact with their noses, mouths or throats.
In rare cases, the virus can spread through contact transmission. People might get the flu when they touch their mouth, nose or eyes after coming in contact with a surface or object with the virus.
How long is the period of contagiousness?
Adults with the flu can spread the virus at least one day before they develop symptoms. Then, they become the most contagious three to four days after the illness begins. CDC notes that immunocompromised adults and children might be able to infect others for an even longer time.
Once exposed to the virus, a person will begin showing symptoms within one to four days.
Who is at high risk?
Influenza can happen to anyone, but some people are at a higher risk of suffering from complications. These include children younger than five years old, pregnant women, patients with chronic medical conditions (asthma, diabetes, heart disease, lung disease), and the elderly.
What kinds of complications can influenza cause?
For the high-risk group, influenza can lead to severe pneumonia, ear infections, and sinus infections. It can also make existing diseases worse, causing death.
You Can Prevent Influenza, Even During Flu Season
TCM believes people fall ill when they have weak protective qi ( (卫气). The Lungs circulate protective qi throughout the body and within the muscles and skin to protect and regulate body temperature. If Lung qi is deficient, your immune system will be weak and you’re prone to falling ill.
A qualified physician would differentiate the pathogens to treat the symptoms and prescribe suitable treatments.
Try TCM herbs and treatments
To strengthen your immune system, TCM suggests getting some sun in to boost yang qi (阳气). If you have Yang Deficiency, TCM advises you to get sufficient rest, avoid late nights and eat more vegetables and fruits. A Qi Deficiency can be managed by having meals at consistent times and exercising.
You can also use TCM herbs like thyme (bai li xiang, 百里香) and
Massaging a few acupressure points consistently will help improve your overall well-being too. The acupoints to work on are he gu (LI04, 合谷), zu san li (ST36, 足三里), and wai guan (SJTE05, 外关).
Additionally, getting a flu vaccine every year can help prevent it while reducing the risk of complications. This is because flu shots enable the body’s immune system to recognise the virus.
However, as we’ve learned from the pandemic, the virus can mutate. As a result, the body’s immune system won’t be able to recognise it.
What to Do If You Have Influenza Symptoms?
- Taking medications
- Getting enough rest
- Eating a balanced diet with fruits and vegetables
- Drinking plenty of water
- Taking prescribed antiviral drugs within the first two days of symptoms, when needed
- Drink wolfberry and chrysanthemum tea (gou qi ju hua cha, 枸杞菊花茶), which can be effective in treating fever, headache and coughs.
Don’t self-diagnose your condition. Influenza symptoms can resemble the common cold but may worsen over time. Follow lifestyle measures to reduce risk, and if you have concerns about your symptoms, schedule a visit with your doctor.
This is an adaptation of an article, “流行性感冒 (Influenza)”, which first appeared on the Health123 website.
- New Straits Times. 2022. #HEALTH: Remain vigilant against influenza. [Accessed on 16 August 2022]
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2019. Key Facts about Influenza (Flu). [Accessed on 16 August 2022]
- Sage Journals. 2020. Traditional Herbal Medicine for the Prevention and Treatment of Cold and Flu in the Autumn of 2020, Overlapped With COVID-19. [Accessed on 23 August 2022]
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