Influenza (Flu)

From Health Facts
(Redirected from Influenza)
Jump to: navigation, search
Latest Edit: Hector 2014-05-15 (EDT)

Influenza, also known as the flu, is a highly contagious, prominent infection that generally occurs in annual outbreaks. Although both the flu and the common cold are both respiratory infections the flu is more severe and tends to affects the lungs as well as the muscles and joints.

In the past, influenza pandemics have been responsible for a large number of deaths, including over 40 million fatalities after World War One. Even less serious strains involved in influenza outbreaks can cause substantial morbidity and significant mortality. It is estimated that on average influenza causes 200,000 hospitalizations and 24,000 deaths per year.[1]

Influenza (Flu)

Influenza (Flu)
Causes Infection, Hygiene, Stress, Environmental Toxins
See Also Respiratory Conditions, Bronchitis, Pneumonia
Books Books on Respiratory Conditions
Articles Articles on Respiratory Conditions

Naturopathic Assessment

Causal Factors

The risk of getting the flu depends on two factors: personal susceptibility and exposure to a pathogen. The naturopathic assessment looks at both aspects. The stronger a person's vitality the less likely they will be affected by exposure to respiratory viruses that cause the flu. The factors that are associated with increased susceptibility to the influenza virus include:


  • Poor nutrition is associated with decreased immune function and an increased risk of infection.[2]
  • Transmission of viruses which cause respiratory infections such as the flu, occur by contact with infected individuals or contaminated surfaces. Touching ones face before hand washing increases the risk of contracting an infeciton.[3]
  • Although prolonged, intense physical training may increase the rate of respiratory infections, in general, increased physical activity is correlated with a lower rate of infections.[4], [5]


  • Individual's are more susceptible to infections like influenza during times of stress or when under chronic stress.[4]


  • The flu is caused by coming into contact with the influenza virus.
  • Public Setting
  • Influenza spreads easily in dense public settings. The closing of schools and workplaces as been shown to be effective in preventing the spread of influenza during outbreaks.[6]


  • Air Travel
  • Air travel increases the risk of transmission of influenza, and may facilitate wider spread of influenza globally.[6]
  • Personal Protective Equipment
  • Use of personal protective equipment, including masks, gloves, and gowns when in contact with infected individuals can decrease the chance of getting an infection.[6]

Medical Interventions

  • Medical Treatments
  • Immunosuppression in organ transplantation, stem cell transplantation, and hemodialysis, puts individuals at higher risk of both influenza infection and complications from influenza infections.[7]
  • Prescription Medications
  • Any prescription medication that suppresses the immune system increases the likelihood of getting an infection and can result in infections such as influenza being more severe.


  • Poor breathing or improper breathing increases the risk of influenza.

Diagnostic Testing

  • The lab tests used to diagnose influenza include CBC, ABG analysis, and blood cultures.[8]
  • Imaging Studies
  • Chest x-rays to rule out viral pneumonia, and to investigate for interstitial pneumonitis may be indicated in some individuals.[8]

Related Symptoms and Conditions

Possible complications related to influenza infection include:


Influenza typically has an incubation period of 1-2 days followed by an acute onset of symptoms, including:[1]

Some individuals may also experience gastrointestinal symptoms including:[6]

Comparing Upper Respiratory Infection (Common Cold) and Flu Symptoms

Symptom Upper Respiratory Infection (Common Cold) Symptom Flu Symptom
Aches, pains Slight Common, often severe
Chest Discomfort Mild to moderate Common to severe
Chills Rare Common
Cough Hacking (a short, weak repeating cough), productive cough (cough that produce phlegm) Dry, unproductive cough (cough not accompanied by expectoration)
Extreme exhaustion Never Early and prominent
Fatigue Mild Moderate to severe, can last up to 2-3 weeks
Fever Rare Common, high (102-104F or 39-40C); last for days.
Headache Rare Common
Sneezing Common Sometimes
Sore throat Common, often initial symptom Sometimes
Stuffy nose Common Sometimes
Other possible health problem Usually no pneumonia, bacterial infections

Naturopathic Treatment

The goal of naturopathic treatment is to support and work in tandem with the healing power of the body and to address the causal factors of disease with individual treatment strategies. Influenza is generally considered a self limiting disease, which means that it will typically resolve on its own within 5 to 7 days when a person is healthy and provides the body with the support that it requires for healing. The following recommendations may speed recovery and minimize any risk of complications.

It is always advisable to work with a naturopathic doctor before engaging in any treatment plan.

Home Care

Home Care strategies include:

  • Basic public hygiene practices such as covering one's nose or mouth while sneezing or coughing, washing hands frequently, and minimizing contact between infected and non-infected individuals can help to contain influenza outbreaks.[9]


Lifestyle recommendations include:

  • Drink plenty of warm liquids such as water, diluted vegetable juices, soups and herb teas). Try to drink 8 ounces of water every hour.[10]
  • Avoid sugar, including natural sugars such as honey, orange juice, and fructose because simple sugars depress the immune system and can "feed" the infection.[10]
  • Ensure adequate protein consumption. Protein requirement may be over 1g/kg/day for adequate immune function[2]
  • Exercise is preventative against infection, but when you have influenza avoid a lot of exercise. Focus on resting and allowing the body to recover.[8]
  • Ensure that you get adequate sleep. If you are more tired than normal, then listen to the body and sleep.

Naturopathic Therapies

The prescribing of naturopathic therapies requires the guidance of a naturopathic doctor as it depends on a number of factors including the causal factors, a person's age, prescription medications, other conditions and symptoms and overall health. It is always advisable to work with a naturopathic doctor prior to taking any natural therapies.

Naturopathic Therapies for influenza include:

Boneset (Eupatorium perfoliatum), Echinacea (Echinacea angustifolia), Elder (Sambucus nigra), Garlic (Allium sativum), Ginger (Zingiber officinale), Feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium),Golden Rod (Solidago virgaurea), Gumweed (Grindelia camporum), Horse-heal (Inula helenium), Hyssop (Hyssopus officinalis), Lemon Balm (Melissa officinale), Mullein (Verbascum thapus), Olive (Olea europaea), Peppermint (Mentha piperita), Skullcap (Scutellaria lateriflora), Thuja (Thuja occidentalis), Vervain (Verbena officinalis), White Horehound (Marrubium vulgare), Wild Indigo (Baptisia tinctoria), Wormwood (Artemisia absinthium), Yarrow (Achileea millefolium),
  • Traditional Chinese Medicine recognizes the varied presentations of the the flu, and treatment is dependent on detailed assessment. Treatment principles utilized in Traditional Chinese Medicine to address influenza include:[17]
  • Wind Cold
  • Wind Heat
  • Qi Deficiency
  • Nasal Irrigation
  • The use of a Neti pot, or other saline nasal spray may help with congestion associated with an upper respiratory tract infection.[3]
  • Contrast Showers
  • Alternating hot and cold during showers may reduce the duration and frequency of cold symptoms.[3]

Specialized Naturopathic Therapies

Specialized therapies that are used to treat influenza include:

  • Intravenous nutrient therapy, namely "the Myers' cocktail" has been found to be effective in the treatment of upper respiratory tract infections.[18]


Reviewed by Iva Lloyd, BScH, RPE, ND [1]

  1. 1.0 1.1 Hayden FG (2011) Goldman: Goldman's Cecil Medicine 24th ed Chap 372 Influenza Saunders
  2. 2.0 2.1 Prousky Jonathan (2008) Principles and Practices of Naturopathic Clinical Nutrition CCNM Press.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Barrett B (2007) Rakel: Integrative Medicine 2nd ed Chap 20 Viral Upper Respiratory Infection Saunders
  4. 4.0 4.1 Tiollier E et al. (2005) Intense training: mucosal immunity and incidence of respiratory infections Eur J of App Phys 93(4):421-8
  5. Klentrou P, Hay J, Pyley M (2003) Habitual physical activity levels and health outcomes of Ontario youth Eur J of App Phys 89(5):460-5
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 Tang JW, Shetty N, Lam TTY, Ellis Hon KL (2010) Emerging, novel, and known influenza virus infections in humans Infect Dis Clin North Am 24(3);603-617
  7. Kunisaki KM, Janoff EN (2009) Influenza in immunosuppressed populations: a review of infection frequency, morbidity, mortality, and vaccine responses Lancet Inf Dis 9(8): 493-504
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 Feri: Ferri's Clinical Advisor 2012 1st ed Section I Influenza Mosby
  9. 9.0 9.1 Rasmussen P (2009) Phytotherapy in an influenza pandemic Aus J of Med Herbalism 21(2):32-37
  10. 10.0 10.1 Murray Michael 1996 Encyclopedia of Nutritional Supplements, The Essential Guide for Improving Your Health Naturally Prima Publishing
  11. Urashima M (2010) Randomized trial of Vitamin D Supplementation to prevent seasonal influenza A in schoolchildren Am J Clin Nutr 91(5):1255-60
  12. Friel H, Lederman H (2006) A Nutritional Supplement Formula for Influenza A (H5N1) in Humans Townsend Letter May 2006 68-76
  13. Godfrey Anthony, Saunders Paul Richard, Barlow Kerry, Gilbert Cyndi, Gowan Matthew, Smith Fraser 2010 Principles and Practices of Naturopathic Botanical Medicine, Vol 1: Botanical Medicine Monographs, CCNM Press, Toronto
  14. Boon Heather, Smith Michael 2004 The Complete Natural Medicine Guide to the 50 Most Common Medicinal Herbs, Robert Rose, Toronto
  15. Hershoff Asa 2000 Homeopathic Remedies, A Quick and Easy Guide to Common Disorders and their Homeopathic Treatments, Avery Publishing Group, New York
  16. Ullman Robert, Reichenberg-Ullman Judyth 1997, Homeopathic Self-Care, the quick and easy guide for the whole family. Prima Publishing
  17. Kuoch DJ (2007) Acupuncture Desk Reference 2nd ed Acumedwest
  18. Gaby AR (2002) Intravenous nutrient therapy: the "Myers cocktail" Alt Med Rev 7(5) 389-403