Influenza, commonly referred to as the flu, is a viral respiratory illness that affects many people throughout the world each year. Common flu symptoms include cough, fever, and a loss of energy. While most people recover from influenza within a week or two with no serious health effects, a small percentage of patients, particularly those with compromised immune systems, die from this illness. There is no cure for the flu, so influenza medicine and other treatment options are based on treating individual symptoms. These medicines may include over-the-counter pain relievers and cough syrups, nasal decongestants, and herbal treatments. Flu shots are also administered as a preventative medicine.
An over-the-counter pain reliever is frequently used as a type of influenza medicine. Medications such as aspirin or ibuprofen can reduce swollen nasal passages and help to relieve headaches, muscle pain, and fever. Prescription pain medications are rarely needed when treating influenza. Over-the-counter cough syrups may be used as an influenza medicine if persistent coughing is a problem. Cough drops may also be helpful in treating a persistent cough.
Nasal congestion, also referred to as a stuffy nose, is frequently present when a person has the flu. A decongestant is the preferred influenza medicine to treat nasal congestion. Over-the-counter decongestants can often provide relief, but prescription-strength medications may have to be used in some cases. Nasal strips are often used along with decongestants to allow for easier breathing.
Many patients prefer to use a more natural influenza medicine and may gravitate toward herbal treatments. Garlic has been shown to kill the influenza virus and help to reduce nasal and chest congestion. A tea made with mullein leaves or flowers is believed to have an expectorant effect, thus helping to clear congestion. Echinacea is perhaps the most popular herbal influenza medicine and is believed to shorten the amount of time a person suffers from the flu by boosting the immune system.
In many parts of the world, the flu shot is considered the most popular type of influenza medicine. The common belief among those who support the use of this vaccine is that by injecting a small amount of the influenza virus into the patient, the body will develop an immunity to the virus, thus preventing influenza. Others believe that the potential risks associated with the vaccine are more dangerous than risking a case of the flu. Some of the potential side effects of the influenza vaccine include seizures, reduced intelligence levels, or sudden death. In fact, some countries have banned the use of the influenza vaccine due to the potential risk factors associated with the vaccine.