In understanding influenza (the flu), I took part in a webinar that explained what it is, how it spreads and how to help prevent it. Type A Influenza is highly contagious, so the more you understand it, the more you can do to protect yourself and prevent it as much as possible.
The flu can be dangerous if left unchecked and since so many of us do not have access to regular healthcare, it’s important to have sound ways to fight it off. If you are diagnosed with the flu, there are some things you can do to help yourself in order to lessen the severity and duration.
Jessie Hawkins, PhD(c) is the executive director and an instructor at the Franklin Institute of Wellness and hosted the webinar. They are a fully authorized post-secondary natural health institution founded in 2013 and based in Tennessee. They are a leading resource for scientific essential oil research. Science-based research provides proof that the therapeutic use of pure essential oils are helpful in addressing a wide range of health issues.
What is Influenza?
Influenza is a virus which can only reproduce inside of a targeted living cell. Antibiotics will not help the flu, and they may actually worsen viral infections because they kill off both good and bad bacteria. Your immune system needs bacteria to be strong.
The most dangerous and serious strain is Type A Influenza. In 2017/2018, nearly 90% of all reported cases are H3N2 which is a subtype of Influenza A. It infects the lining of both the upper and lower respiratory tract. Once you’re infected, it can take as little as a few hours for the symptoms to incubate.
The actual influenza virus spreads by killing cells in your respiratory tract, triggering a cough reflex which propels the virus in the air to infect those around you.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) says that the flu is primarily transmitted from person to person via virus-laden droplets that are generated when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Another way is touching a contaminated object such as a door knob or grocery cart handle and then touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
The virus spreads quickly especially in close circumstances such as day care centers and nursing homes which is what makes the flu so dangerous among small children and the elderly. Adults can transmit influenza anywhere from the day before symptom onset to approximately 5 days after symptoms begin. Children can transmit influenza to others for 10 or more days.
How do you know if you have a cold or the flu? Symptoms of a cold are:
- Mild to moderate cough
- Mild aches and pains
- Sore Throat
- Stuffy or runny nose
- Watery eyes
- Generally lasts up to 7 – 9 days
- Typically does not involve a fever (occasional exceptions for young children)
- Rarely involves a headache
Flu symptoms are somewhat different but do have some indicators in common:
- Moderate to severe cough
- Fever, possibly high lasting for 3 – 4 days
- Moderate to intense muscle aches and pains
- Headache, sometimes intense
- Sore throat and stuffy nose are not uncommon
- Sneezing and watery eyes are a rarity
- Generally lasts 12 – 14 days or longer
Notice you don’t see nausea and vomiting on the list as that is the norovirus which affects your stomach and intestines. This is different than Type A Influenza.
Interesting Facts About Type A Influenza
We all know that Type A Influenza is highly contagious but here are some facts that I didn’t know:
- The flu virus on a contaminated tissue only last about 15 minutes.
- If you shake hands with someone who is infected, don’t touch your face and immediately wash your hands with soap and water. The amount of time that the virus lasts on your hands is about the same for the tissue.
- The flu virus on contaminated non-porous objects such as plastic and stainless steel can last for up to 2 – 3 days (think countertops, door knobs and toys)!
- Influenza outbreaks tend to occur between October and March in the United States. The outbreaks usually begin in the Southeast and shift towards the Pacific Northwest.
- H1N1 outbreak in 2009 was considered a pandemic; prior to that the last pandemic was 50 years ago.
- The Australian flu vaccine was only 10% effective due to “antigenic drift”. When modified for the US market, the vaccine became closer to 30% efficient.
Who Is Most At Risk for Influenza?
While all of us are at risk of the flu, there are some groups that are more vulnerable. If you are in one of these groups, please take extra precautions.
- Children under 5
- Women who are pregnant
- Adults 65 and older
- Individuals who are compromised by asthma, heart disease, metabolic disorders and immune disorders.
Preventing H3N2 or Any Strain of the Flu
One of the best ways to avoid getting the flu is to keep your immune system in tip top shape. We all swear that’s what we do on a daily basis but seriously, I don’t think we are! Here are some basic ways to keep your immune system strong:
- Stay hydrated with plain filtered water. (No, energy drinks; coffee, beer and wine do NOT count – sorry.)
- Wash your hands after using the toilet, sneezing, coughing and eating.
- Do not use antibacterial soaps – use plain soap and water. The antibacterial soaps kill off both good and bad bacteria which will actually make the virus worse.
- Eat food that is clean and right for you – junk food such as chips, etc. doesn’t count.
- Get more rest than usual in the wintertime. Even forgoing one hour of sleep every night has seriously detrimental effects on your health.
- Aged Garlic extract and North American Ginseng supplements have been shown to help prevent and lessen the severity of upper respiratory infections. But here’s the thing – you have to take them every single day during flu season – not just when you’re sick!
- Whether you use natural remedies or pharmaceuticals from the doctor or drug store, the key is early intervention. Get treatment immediately after exposure or at the first sign of illness. The longer you wait the worse it will be.
- There are studies showing Elderberry Syrup is helpful in lessening the severity and duration of colds and flu. Be aware if you make it at home that Elderberry must be sufficiently cooked to avoid toxic effects. If you are taking Elderberry Syrup for prevention, take 15 mL 4 times daily. If you are actively infected, take 15 mL every 2 – 4 hours. Natural remedies address the underlying cause where drugs from the doctor or drug store address the symptoms.
- Pure Eucalyptus essential oil when mixed with a carrier oil is very helpful with breathing – this is not for use on children under 10. If you would like a chest rub of blended essential oils to help with the flu, ChestEZ Decongestant Rub is available for both kids and adults.
Warning Signs of Type A Influenza – H3N2
Not all cases of the flu require a visit to a healthcare professional. Those who are at a higher risk absolutely need to see a medical professional as soon as possible after experiencing symptoms. Warning signs that you need medical attention include:
- Difficulty breathing or quickened breathing
- Skin rash
- Shortness of breath
- Sudden dizziness
- Extreme irritability
- Reduced oxygen intake such as bluish skin
If you find your flu-like symptoms improve and then return with a fever or worsened cough, you need to get emergency treatment as soon as possible.
According to CBS News, The CDC is recommending that everyone who can get a flu shot as it will lessen the severity and duration if you do get the flu. I’m on the fence about flu shots. I wish I had good advice on what to tell you if you’re not sure about getting one, but I just don’t know the answer. You need to listen to your heart about this issue and do what’s best for you.
When Can I Go Back To Work?
When you have the flu, your body is screaming for rest. By staying in bed, you’re giving your body what it needs to heal on its’ own. Each person is different when it comes to the flu, and Self Magazine published an article about how long you’ll be contagious, even after you feel better:
How can I help you aromatherapy during flu season? Please fill out the contact form and let’s talk today!