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Knowing The Flu Cycle

Published: Thursday, October 31, 2002

Updated: Sunday, August 10, 2008 00:08

Each winter, it's a fact of life. Headache, dry cough, body aches, fever and sore throat signal the onset of the flu. Each year 10 percent to 20 percent of the population gets infected with the influenza virus.

The flu cycle is slightly more complex than other cycles of illness. Initially the virus enters the body through the membranes of the mouth or nose. One might not know that he has contracted influenza at this stage.

On days two through four, the virus settles in the lungs and begins to grow. Except for the occasional sniffle, flu symptoms still do not appear. But looks are deceiving. A person infected with a flu virus is contagious during this incubation stage.

As the incubation period ends, flu symptoms strike with sudden force. Body temperature rises. Shivers make your skin tingle. A headache sets in. Muscles start to ache. The nose becomes stuffy and runs. A heavy cough and sore throat cause discomfort. This usually happens on the fifth day of the cycle.

On days six through nine, the flu hits its stride and the body's immune system is under full siege from the virus.

There are many things one can do to get better. One of the most important things is to get plenty of bed rest. Also, drinking lots of fluids, such as water and citric juices, flush virus organisms from the body and prevent dehydration.

Barbara Prempeh, a sophomore psychology major, remembers her mother making tea with lemon and honey to relieve her itchy throat when she had the flu.

Another thing to do is eat plenty of fruits and vegetables rich in Vitamin A, E and carotene. Although loss of appetite usually accompanies the flu, food can give the body strength to fight the virus.

While it is very important to know the things to do to recover from the flu, it is just as important to know the things you should not do, said Geneva McCall, a nurse at the Howard University Hospital. One thing she advises to not get a flu shot while recovering from an infection because it only aggravates the situation.

"Don't drink alcohol or coffee," McCall also said. "They drain moisture from the body."

Haile Simms, a junior film production major, said that when he has the flu, he tries to avoid people because it is contagious.

There are also vaccinations given for the flu virus. However, it is most effective to get the shot at the beginning of flu season.

If one becomes infected, there is medicine to help speed up the recovery process. Cheryl Freeman, a pharmacist at Howard University Student Pharmacy, said Zithromax is the medicine students receive when they visit the Student Health Center.

"It's a five day regimen," Freeman said. "Two tablets on the first day, and one daily for four days."

In the last days of the flu period, the body has started to produce the antibodies needed to destroy the virus. Strength slowly comes back, fever disappears and coughing diminishes. Although most people are well enough to go to work at this point, fatigue can linger for weeks afterward.

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