Flu: Washing hands can save you

By Vision Reporter

Added 17th July 2007 03:00 AM

GRACE Nakibuuka, 26, has a nasal tone (speaks through her nose), blows her nose frequently, has a hoarse voice and complains of headache and fever. These are symptoms of flu.

By Rehema Aanyu

GRACE Nakibuuka, 26, has a nasal tone (speaks through her nose), blows her nose frequently, has a hoarse voice and complains of headache and fever. These are symptoms of flu.

But why is flu common these days? Flu used to be a condition that came and went after a short time and without medication. Today, it seems to stay on until one takes medication.

How it is spread
According to Dr. Paul Magala, a general practitioner at Crane Health Services, flu is medically referred to as influenza. It is an acute viral respiratory infection caused by influenza viruses, which enter the body when someone infected with the virus coughs or sneezes.

Flu is airborne. It can also be spread when someone inhales breath of an infected person or when someone comes in contact with an infected person’s saliva for example, through kissing or sharing of handkerchiefs.

Other ways flu can spread are touching a surface like a telephone or door knob that has been touched by an infected person and a hand-shake from someone who has flu.

The viruses enter the body through the nose or mouth.

“When in the body, they multiply rapidly. When there are too many for the body to fight off, the person gets the flu,” he says.

Dr Accleus Kwatakare, a virologist doing research in Western Uganda, says cold viruses may manifest many “flu-like symptoms” (fever, runny nose and cough), but they are different from flu viruses. “Symptoms of a cold come from 200 different viruses. To kill a cold, you will have to kill a specific cold virus that has seized you,” he says.

David Ssali, a naturopathic doctor, says although flu affects almost everyone, people with low immunity are more at risk of getting flu. “The body’s defence system is built by eating easily digestive foods that do not deprive the body of its nutrients. The lack of nutrients in the body exposes it to numerous infections like, and especially, flu,” he says.

If left untreated, Magara says, flu can be life-threatening in older people with chronic illnesses like heart disease, emphysema, asthma, bronchitis, kidney disease or diabetes. “Secondary infections like cough, sinuses, bronchitis, tonsillitis and more serious infections like pneumonia can develop if the flu is left untreated.”

Magala says flu can go away by itself. You just have to rest adequately, drink plenty of fluids, and avoid exertion.

He, however, says: “Early treatment –– within 48 hours of your first symptoms –– with drugs like Cold Cap and Asprin, may reduce the severity of influenza symptoms.”

Magala, however, warns that not all antiviral medications can treat flu. People should seek professional help rather than self- medication.

Godfrey Musisi, a naturathopatic at Mukago Herbal Research, says herbal steam clears the nostrils. “Most stuffy noses are blocked by dry mucus. Blowing or sniffling alone cannot remove dry mucus,” he says. All one has to do is to put five drops of eucalyptus oil in a hot bath or six drops in a cup of boiling water and then put a towel over your head and inhale the steam.

Ssali advises that to prevent the spread of flu, one should wash one’s hands regularly, throw away tissues immediately after use and also stay away from infected people to prevent the spread of the virus.

Flu: Washing hands can save you

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