Ward off the flu: Tips to prevent yourself from catching the virus
Given the rise in viral infections, health experts share what can be done to survive flu season and the measures one can take to avoid the illness
The risk of seasonal flu has increased in a post-pandemic world. According to Dr Ravi Shekhar Jha, director and chief of pulmonology at Fortis Escorts Hospital Faridabad, one can be subject to different seasonal flu viruses, with the subtype of the influenza A infection, H1N1 being the most common, followed by cases of influenza B. However, he warns that H3N2 influenza can be more dangerous than one can anticipate. Shedding light on the H3N2 virus, Dr Vandana Boobna, principal consultant of internal medicine at Max Super Specialty Hospital, Shalimar Bagh, notes that it is a subtype of influenza, a virus that spreads in a way similar to COVID-19.
With the surge in influenza-like illness and severe acute respiratory infections across the country—a 58-year-old woman died in Gujarat on Monday after contracting flu-like symptoms—the Centre has asked states to be more proactive and raise awareness. “The government is currently looking at measures to curb the rise in cases. Besides these types of viruses, other respiratory viral infections such as parainfluenza and respiratory syncytial virus are also being monitored,” adds Dr Jha.
The deluge of information about these viruses that’s being circulated on the internet can cause one to panic. However, understanding the risks and taking necessary precautions as mentioned by health experts can help prevent infection.
The symptoms of seasonal flu are the same for most viral infections, and include cough, runny nose, fever, and shortness of breath in those with a history of bronchial asthma. However, patients suffering from the seasonal influenza that is currently occurring globally have a prolonged cough that can last anywhere between two to four weeks. This is also accompanied with high fever that usually cannot be treated by taking paracetamol at home. Talking about these cases, Dr Boobna says, “This influenza infects people through droplet infection caused by coughing, sneezing, or close contact. Surface contact and touching the face and nose can also spread the virus.”
While anyone can catch seasonal flu, some people are at a higher risk for complications. “People with respiratory conditions such as asthma, diabetes, chronic kidney disease, and cancer patients who are already receiving chemotherapy are considered high-risk patients,” mentions Dr Jha. Dr Boobna adds that apart from underlying diseases and co-morbidities, flu-related complications are more likely in pregnant women, young children, and the elderly.
Prevention is key
Among the important measures, experts advise taking the flu vaccination, which is recommended for all age groups and should be done in consultation with a doctor. Dr Boobna says, “Influenza vaccination is available, and new vaccines are developed each year as the infection spreads. It is advised for everyone to take this, preferably in the month of August, and speak to their primary care physician about it.”
In addition, it is critical to adhere to health guidelines similar to that of COVID-19: Keep your distance, wear masks, and wash your hands regularly. “Anyone who is sick or uncomfortable should isolate themselves to prevent the spread of the virus,” adds Dr Jha. Dr Boobna stresses on hydrating well and eating healthy, nutritious food. “In case of fever or cough, do not self-medicate. Consult your family physician,” she adds
With the wave of seasonal flu in the new normal, it is important to keep abreast of any symptoms and developments, and also take necessary precautions to prevent the spread of the virus. Remember, prevention is key and it starts with each one of us.
FOCUS ON A HEALTHY DIET
Tanisha Bawa, certified nutrition coach and founder of TAN|365, gives us an insight into what one must eat when you have the flu:
1. Turmeric: Turmeric curcumin has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties that can boost the immune system. Use it in cooking, in drinks, or as a latte with black pepper.
2. Ginger: This relieves colds/flu and digestive problems. Brew it as a tea or add it to soups.
3. Garlic: The antiviral/microbial properties of garlic can boost immunity to colds/flu. Cook with garlic for three months to reduce the risk of infection.
4. Vitamin C-rich foods: This vitamin is found in peppers, oranges, kiwi, and grapefruit and can boost immunity and reduce respiratory infections. Consume them daily for maximum benefit.
5. Leafy vegetables: Such vegetables contain antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, nutrients, and fibre that aid digestion. Cook it as a vegetable or add it to soups.