Influenza, (flu) is a viral infection caused by the influenza virus. The symptoms include: headache, fever, cough, sore throat and aching muscles. Complications include pneumonia, which would probably need hospital treatment and could be fatal. You can catch Influenza by breathing in liquid droplets (containing the virus) that have been sneezed or coughed into the air, or by touching objects contaminated with the virus. You can catch the virus at any time of the year, but often it is caught in winter.
The most vulnerable are advised to have a vaccination every year (for example: people over the age of 65 or with lung or heart disease) as the flu virus changes slightly every year.
You can reduce your risk of catching flu by eating a healthy diet, taking regular exercise, getting enough rest and relaxation, and not smoking.
Also avoid people who are coughing and sneezing. To help you to recover from influenza, you need to take plenty of rest, keep warm, make sure you drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration, take paracetamol or anti-inflammatory medicines such as ibuprofen to lower a high temperature and relieve headaches and muscle aches and drink hot water with lemon, ginger and honey.
In Chinese medicine influenza can occur as a result of exterior wind, which may manifest as Wind-Cold, Wind-Heat, Wind-Damp-Heat or Wind-Dry-Heat. Wind-Cold and Wind-Heat are the most common types.
Wind-Cold impairs the function of the lung and affects the nose, causing nasal obstruction and discharge. Yang (the body's warm energy) is most likely to be damaged and this is characterized by symptoms such as chills, fever, anhidrosis, headache, even soreness and pain of the limbs, as well as by a white tongue coating and fast pulse.
Wind-Heat often attacks the body through the nose and mouth. The Lung is involved first. Wind-Heat is yang (hot) in nature and is characterized by upward and outward dispersion. When a fight goes on between the Wind-Heat and the body's resistance, fever, slight aversion to wind and sweating result. When Wind-Heat attacks the head, symptoms like pain and a pressure sensation occur in the head. When it attacks the Lung, a cough can develop with yellow, thick sputum. Other symptoms include congestion, sore throat with thirst, a white or yellowish tongue coating, and a rapid pulse.
According to Chinese Medicine theory acupuncture and Chinese herbs can be prescribed to eliminate Wind-Cold or Wind-Heat and relieve symptoms. Acupuncture combined with moxibustion (which involves igniting a cone or cylinder of moxa close to the skin) is applied to patients with weakened constitutions.
For expert advice on strengthening your defences against colds, flu and other illnesses, please take a look at our special Support Your Immune System guide .
For personalised advice on diet and lifestyle, please ask the doctor during your consultation.
Please be reminded that we offer free online health advice.