Today, any sort of cough or cold is popularly labelled “influenza” or the flu. The respiratory infection is caused by specific viruses, but it doesn’t matter what name you give this type of illness; the symptoms, precautions and treatment are about the same.
The progress of a bout of flu is easy to chart. Often you get a chill, and your body resistance flags. You breathe in the company of an unhappy, unthinking person who constantly coughs and sneezes his germs around him by the million.
Sign and symptoms
When your resistance is low the germs become lodged in the tender, pink lining of the nasal passageways. Here they multiply, and the body reacts by attempting to flush them out with great quantities of clear fluid. The result, the constantly dripping nose, is the first sign of a respiratory infection.
As the body mechanism increases its struggle to destroy and dislodge the germs, the clear fluid becomes yellow-green with dead white blood cells.
The germs often win in the early stages. From the nasal passageways they move into the back of the nose, the throat, and the huge upper air channels of the trachea and bronchi. Finally, they enter the smaller branches of the air channels, the bronchioles, which permeate the lungs.
So, in turn, a sore nose, sore throat, cough and perhaps chest pain develop, often rapidly. While all this is happening, and the body is marshaling its fighting forces as quickly as possible, the temperature starts to rise. Toxins spread through the body and the patient develops a headache and aches and pains in the joints and the large muscles of the limbs and back.
So, a major respiratory infection is born, and secondary invaders start to infiltrate at the same time. Many respiratory infections are caused initially by viruses. But as these weaken surfaces, more germs attack and produce their own set of symptoms.
A particular ailment gets its name from the part of the body that is most affected. A head cold is just that – usually infection confined to the nose and throat. Pharyngitis means the throat is the main part that suffers; laryngitis means the vocal chords are also infected, often making the voice husky and talking difficult.
A severe cough means bronchitis is present. Severe chest pains, especially with breathlessness, mean trouble as this may indicate either pneumonia or pleurisy, or both. This often needs urgent attention, but usually simple respiratory infections do not get to this stage.
Precautions and treatment
You can guard against respiratory diseases by taking precautions, especially during the seasons they are around. A person in good health stands a better chance of resisting some of the effects of a germ invasion than one who is not.
Here are some of the things you can do to build good body resistance, and avoid the flu.
- Keep dry. If you’re caught in a downpour, dry out as quickly as you can.
- Avoid windy, cold streets, especially at night. Wrap up well if you have to wait half an hour for the bus or, better still, walk to the next stop. You’ll warm up and probably increase your resistance.
- Avoid others who are infected. Keep away from your friends if they are sneezing and spluttering cold germs all around you.
- Get plenty of fresh air – throw open the windows whenever possible, but don’t sit in drafts.
- Have adequate exercise so the blood will circulate, and take protective antibodies to all parts of the system regularly.
- Take enough rest at night, for this is when the body builds up its fighting reserves.
- Eat sensible food, embracing a well-balanced diet. This gives the system the best possible chance of avoiding infections. Avoid excessive alcohol, for this reduces general resistance.
If you are a victim of flu, try the simple measures first. But if symptoms do not readily respond, call your family doctor promptly. Simple symptoms may quickly develop into complications that need proper medical attention and special prescriptions.
So, the flu-cold-cough bug has you in its grip. What do you do?
Antibiotics: For the SIMPLE COLD they are UNNECESSARY, for they will NOT kill viruses and may set up diarrhea and heartburn instead. Use antibiotics only if a doctor prescribed them for your present attack of flu.
However, other germs may be involved as the illness proceeds, and these, such as pleurisy and pneumonia, may be susceptible to some prescribed antibiotic drugs.
But with these complications, the symptoms would make it obvious that professional help is needed.
Nose and throat: Often simply gargling with hot, salty water will greatly relieve a sore throat. Add half a teaspoon of salt to a glass of hot water, gargle and expel. Repeat often. It won’t cure, but it relieves discomfort.
Blocked nostrils may benefit from nose drops, but use minimum amounts as infrequently as possible. Too much will aggravate the congestion.
Smoking: Only a very foolish person will smoke when in the grip of a respiratory infection. Smoking only aggravates symptoms, prolongs the illness and makes you feel worse. It will reduce the body’s resistance.
Vitamins: Do vitamins effectively reduce the course of a cold? Nobody knows for certain, but adequate vitamins will certainly keep the body as healthy as possible. Vitamin C and the Vitamin B complex all help.