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‘Tis the Season for the Flu

Unless and until you have experienced the flu, it is actually easy to minimize it. Think of how often you’ve heard someone say that they have or had the flu and thought he or she was exaggerating when using descriptions like, “it was agony,” “it was just horrific,” “it was the worst illness I have ever had,” “I felt like I was dying,” “I could hardly move,” “parts of my body ached that I didn’t even know existed,” or “it took me at least a week to feel normal again.” And when asked to describe what exactly was going on, all most people can report are aches and pains, and so it’s no wonder a sufferer gets the reputation of being a drama queen or a hypochondriac. And also unless and until you have experienced the flu, it is equally easy to mix up a cold with the flu. How do I know? Very recently I had the flu for the first time in nearly thirty years. Up until that torturous week of my life, I, too, had forgotten what it was like to feel like I thought I was dying.

Hardly prone to being a drama queen or a wimp when it comes to pain, following surgeries (I have had to have a few in my life), I have been known to take myself off the pain meds only two to three days post surgery. Much to the amazement of my doctor, it isn’t so much that I am impervious to pain, but more that I dislike the feeling of being stoned and not in complete control of my mental faculties. Ah, but isn’t that the reason people have surgery – for the pain meds? Not me. Sure, it’s fun for a day, but as soon as I can manage the pain, I stop the pain pills cold turkey. And so when I was popping acetaminophen every six hours and was still prone to whining between doses, my husband, who was also down with the flu the same week, knew I was in bad shape.

What is the Flu Exactly?

First, it is important to make the distinction between the two types of flu and distinguish these from a cold.

Stomach Flu

According to WebMD, CNN.com, the CDC, and the Mayo Clinic, there really isn’t such a thing as the stomach flu. This was actually news to me when I set out to write this article, because like the majority of people I know, I too have often labeled symptoms of diarrhea with painful cramping, nausea, and vomiting that seemingly popped out of nowhere and lasted for a couple of days as the stomach flu. Unable to trace it back to something I ate, I just assumed it was the stomach flu. Well, forgive me, but I am too old to change my ways, and the next time I get the above-mentioned symptoms that lasts more than a few hours (which would indicate bacteria in some food I ate), I am going to continue calling it stomach flu. While many like to take some over the counter (OTC) anti-spasmodic (the cramping is pretty painful), I prefer to just tough it out. Unless the pain is unbearable or lasts for more than three days, I see no reason to do anything more than curl up in bed with a good book or my iPhone and mess around on Facebook and occasionally wail to the walls hoping they will help me.

A Cold

Often referred to as the common cold, a sore throat is usually the first symptom most people notice when they have a cold. Other normal symptoms can include the following:

  • Runny nose that conjures up images of a faucet
  • Constant and unending sneezing
  • Coughing
  • Some congestion in the head and/or chest
  • Postnasal drip and often the cause of the sore throat
  • Fever is common but not all sufferers get one
  • Snoring, thanks to an inability to breathe through one or both clogged nostrils

This last symptom is the point at which your spouse has had enough and moves to another part of the house to get some sleep. Symptoms can last for usually between three and seven days, and some may linger for a week or longer – surely long after it’s worn out its welcome. Absent any aches and pains and fever, it is pretty easy to distinguish a cold from the flu. Despite obvious external symptoms, most cold sufferers feel as though they can continue working and going about their daily activities. But many have the common courtesy to steer clear of people if for no other reason than nobody wants to shake the hand you just sneezed into and onto which you have left traces of mucous that is thick and yellow or sometimes even a putrid shade of green.

Taking OTC drugs will do only one thing to symptoms of a cold, which is to minimize what you are feeling so that you can continue working, or doing whatever it is you must do. They don’t, contrary to what television advertisements claim, shorten the time you are ill. If you can avoid taking any drugs, it is best. In an upcoming article, I will share some remedies you can take that are 100 percent natural.

These, my friends, are all together different from the flu.

The Flu

The first thing most people notice with the flu is the headache. It wasn’t my first symptom when I had it recently, but it was my husband’s. He can count on two hands how often he has had a headache in his life, and so when he gets one, illness is soon to follow. Accompanying the headache are aches and pains that permeate your muscles. As I stated earlier, parts of your body ache that you didn’t know existed or that could ache. Literally from the top of your head to both pinky toes, pain is what is most memorable about the flu. Congestion in the chest that makes the frequent coughing sometimes intolerable is the next complaint most flu sufferers describe. Sore throat, usually the result of frequent bouts of coughing, are also no walk in the park. Other symptoms include going back and forth between chills and sweats, diarrhea, and disinterest in eating. Along with the pain comes weakness and extreme fatigue such that even getting out of bed to use the restroom is a challenge. Upon returning to bed, don’t be surprised to equate it with having just run your first marathon.

Flu can generally last anywhere from three to ten days with coughing (accompanied by mucous) lingering for up to two weeks. Those with asthma do need to concern themselves with secondary infections such as bronchitis and pneumonia.

What to Take for the Flu

There are many options for you to take to minimize the symptoms of the flu. Many people prefer to let nature take its course, but this isn’t always recommended. If you are older, have a compromised immune system, or have asthma, you are really better off trying to treat it so you can avoid a more serious infection or worse – death. The Centers for Disease Control report that anywhere between 5,000 to 35,000 people die from the flu each year. Of course, there have been times when hundreds of thousands of people die during a pandemic.

Elderberry

Elderberry is shrub that grows in Asia and Europe. It has black berries similar in appearance to black cherries. Due to the toxicity of the twigs, leaves, branches, seeds, unripe berries, and the root, the only way you may digest elderberry is by cooking the berries. It is recommended that if you take elderberry that you do so in the syrup form. It is pretty rare when naturalists and mainstream medicine can agree on much. However, in the case of elderberry, there is consensus that elderberry works well at both inhibiting infection and at minimizing the effects of the flu. One such study’s results that compared its efficacy to Tamiflu and Amantadine on those infected with the H1N1 virus were published in the medical journal Phytochemistry. Users of elderberry also don’t report the side effects associated with the two popular prescription drugs, which inclues anxiety and insomnia. With such positive news about elderberry, you should have no difficulty finding it on the Internet.

Ginger

If anyone has ever recommended ginger for myriad other ailments, you may have started to wonder if this is some kind of wonder drug. The ancient Chinese certainly believed it to be. Common claims for ginger:

  • Helps minimize arthritis
  • Treats colic
  • Decreases blood pressure
  • Relieves headaches
  • Shrinks inflammation in the lungs

I suffer from asthma and frequently drink ginger tea, and it does decrease the build up of mucous and congestion. I have never used it for headache. I use tiger balm for that. Ginger is great because a little bit goes a long way. It grows on my farm, and I just dig some up, peel it, and slice it into tiny pieces. I boil water and plop the pieces in there. It does burn going down, but it also works at quieting my cough and breaking up the mucous that can lead to bronchitis and wheezing. Ginger can also easily be purchased in its root form or in capsule form.

Vitamin C

As soon as you get a cold or the flu, one of the first things people advise is for you to take “mega doses of vitamin C.” It certainly sounds like great advice, given that C helps keep our bones and muscles strong and healthy, is an antioxidant and helps us absorb iron. However, according to myriad university studies conducted over the last thirty or so years, results show the following:

  • At best, your cold or flu’s duration and severity can be cut by as little as 8 percent
  • When suffering from a cold or the flu, there was little difference between those who increased intake of vitamin C and those who took placebo

But, this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t take vitamin C, either on a daily basis or once you realize you have caught a bug. It can neither help nor hinder. The only caveat to this is that you should limit your intake to no more than 2000 milligrams per day, as the excess can get stored in the kidneys. As always, it is best to take vitamins in their natural state. Foods that are rich in vitamin C are citrus, cherries, papaya, and pineapple.

Chicken Soup

Your mother was right about this one. For a combination of reasons, no cold or flue should be without chicken soup. Here’s why:

The chicken broth helps shrink inflamed tissues in the nasal passages, which allows you to breath better. It’s only temporary, so repeated use is suggested. The hearty goodness of the accompanying vegetables helps build your ailing immune system. Whether yours contains carrots, celery, broccoli, peas, onions, garlic, leaks, it’s all good. Get creative. If your refrigerator has vegetables that might otherwise go bad and become one with the compost pile, add them to your soup. Got potatoes? Add them, too. I think one of the reasons this soup works so well is that most flu sufferers lose their appetites during the worst phases of the flu. Soup, with cut up pieces of chicken, is a healthy way to get the protein, vitamins, and grains your body needs, without weighing you down. Please be mindful of how much salt you are putting in, however; your body never needs more than 1500 milligrams per day.

Spirits

I don’t think we need any studies to tell us what 90 percent of the planet already knows. In all its forms, alcohol is a beloved beverage. It sedates, it calms, it warms the belly, it creates laughter, and it makes food taste better. Nearly every single culture on earth touts its goodness in some form or another. Dating back nearly as long as people have walked the earth, people have enjoyed alcohol. Jesus partook, as did his apostles, Esther, Daniel, Job, and many, many others in both the old and new testaments. From Isaiah 25:6, “The Lord who commands armies will hold a banquet for all the nations on this mountain. At this banquet there will be plenty of meat and aged wine – tender meat and choicest wine.” And in Deuteronomy 14:26, “Then you may spend the money however you wish for cattle, sheep, wine, beer, or whatever you desire. You and your household may eat there in the presence of the Lord your God and enjoy it.” I take these both to mean that we can eat, drink and be merry, but we should do so in moderation. If it feels good, and you aren’t doing it to excess or to harm others or self, it could actually make you feel better when you have the flu (or otherwise). By all means, add a little honey to help soothe your painful sore throat.

Whine

Even the most stoic of individuals when in the throes of the grippe can’t resist the urge to let out a good whine. You feel like poo, and although your pets still love you and think you are beautiful, let’s face it, they are in the minority. Let it out! Whine, wail, sigh loudly, moan, and groan. However, take comfort in this: your misery is temporary. As my mom in all her infinite wisdom used to say about everything: “This too shall pass.”

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