Seasonal flu is a widespread global phenomenon, usually associated with the cold winter months. However, in Egypt, a number of factors increase the chances of catching the influenza virus during the spring, when the Khamasin wind carries dust mites and microscopic bugs that put an additional strain on the human respiratory system. Those suffering from chronic health problems or with an impaired immune system are particularly susceptible to infection. Influenza causes coughing, fever, sore throat, headache, muscle pain and tiredness. Dr. Ahmed Bassiouny, professor of otolaryngology, provides some useful advice on how to stave off seasonal flu as the Khamasin looms.
Al-Masry Al-Youm: Who is most vulnerable to seasonal influenza?
Dr. Bassiouny: Those with a genetic susceptibility to seasonal influenza are the most vulnerable during this period. Generally, influenza is easily transmitted from one person to another through direct or indirect contact, so you can find a whole family suffering from it.
Al-Masry: Is there a specific age bracket that is more susceptible?
Dr. Bassiouny: People in all age groups can be infected by seasonal flu. However, the elderly are more susceptible to flu, especially those who suffer from the common aging diseases, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, heart problems, and cancer. Children are also prone to infection, as their immune systems are still developing. Viruses can quickly spread between students in schools. So if you notice any symptoms of flu virus in your child, it is better to keep them at home until they recover, or else the condition might worsen.
Al-Masry: How can one avoid being infected in the first place?
Dr. Bassiouny: If you already suffer from chronic sinus problems or serious medical complications, you have to avoid going out frequently during Khamasin, because it carries large quantities of dust and sand that can increase respiratory allergy. Avoid staying in closed areas with air-conditioning for long periods, particularly together with lots of other people. Good ventilation is essential for staying healthy, so you have to change air-conditioning filters on a regular basis to get rid of the airborne bacteria.
Al-Masry: What are the best remedies for influenza?
Dr. Bassiouny: At the early stage of influenza, take vitamins, have a good rest at home and wait until the virus runs its course. It is recommended to take antipyretic (fever-reducing) medications or common allergy medications if your condition gets worse. Never take antibiotics without a doctor’s prescription.
Eat fruits that are rich sources of vitamin C, such lemons, oranges and grapefruits, throughout the year, and especially in March, April and May, to boost your immunity. Vitamin C prevents the acute complications of influenza and so shortens the duration of infection.
Al-Masry: Is the seasonal flu vaccine important?
Dr. Bassiouny: I am against seasonal flu vaccine because there are many kinds of influenza. So it isn't easy to determine which kind is most likely to attack your body. You just need to keep your immune system strong through eating more fruits, vegetables and proteins. Drink more water, sleep from six to eight hours daily and exercise regularly to strengthen your body against disease in general, not only influenza.