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Influenza strikes the nation: Flu symptoms and remedies

It's not too late: Get your flu shot.
It's not too late: Get your flu shot.
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It's as inevitable as the taxes: Influenza season has arrived. In some areas, the severity of this year's flu is resulting in hospitalizations, reported the Sacramento Bee on Jan. 3.

In Sacramento, for example, health officials have reported the season’s first flu death. Patients who required intensive care due to flu symptoms have doubled.

Both in California and throughout the nation, H1N1 is the main strain. It impacts primarily young adults and middle-aged people in good health, according to an alert to physicians from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Protection.

“One of the things we have noticed is that the disease can get to people who are otherwise healthy,” warned Sacramento County Public Health Officer Olivia Kasirye.

What that means: It will be a busy season for physicians as the flu spreads. And the message for consumers: Get that flu vaccine.

Because flu vaccines take two weeks before they are fully effective, most health experts recommend a flu shot once each season. The peak season for influenza is from late December through early February.

And just because you're in good health doesn't mean you don't need a flu shot, said Kasirye. Because the main strain of flu is attacking healthy people, everyone should get a flu vaccine.

Flu symptoms can include fever, headache, tiredness, cough, sore throat, nasal congestion and body aches. Lasting two to seven days, flu can cause severe problems.

To ease the misery of flu, the federal government recommends:

  • Getting plenty of rest
  • Drinking clear fluids like water, broth, sports drinks, or electrolyte beverages to prevent becoming dehydrated
  • Placing a cool, damp washcloth on your forehead, arms, and legs to reduce discomfort associated with a fever
  • Putting a humidifier in your room to make breathing easier
  • Gargling salt water (1:1 ratio warm water to salt) to soothe a sore throat
  • Covering up with a warm blanket to calm chills

In addition, if you've got that stuffy nose, can't breathe feeling, talk with your doctor about decongestants. Cough drops and cough medicine also can help.

And when it comes to holistic health remedies, WebMD reports that Grandma was right: Chicken soup has been scientifically shown to help. Hot tea also can relieve stuffy noses, as can breathing in steam. Another holistic remedy: Neti pots, which flush out the nasal passages and relieve sinus congestion.

What should you eat when you've got the flu? Stay hydrated, with pure juices and chicken broth. Sip herbal teas. However, WebMD notes that some people experience increased mucus production if they have dairy foods.

Orange juice and oranges give you vitamin C. If you're feeling nauseated, however, stick to ginger ale and saltine crackers and avoid acidic foods.