Flu questions answered

What's your best defense against the flu? A doctor answers a few real-life questions.

It's tempting to think that there's a pill or a potion for everything, but the best defense against a virus like influenza is still a strong immune system - and giving it time off to fight.

Q: Flu and exercise

How soon can one exercise after suffering from the flu? I've only just finished a course of antibiotics and still have blocked sinuses, but otherwise I feel okay. I want to get back into my exercise routine as quickly as possible.

Expert: You can only start exercising after all your flu symptoms have disappeared. This is particularly important in terms of fever and a fast resting heart rate. If exercise is resumed before all the symptoms are gone, you'll run a risk of developing viral myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle), which in turn can cause severe heart failure. Rather be patient.

Q: Flu-like symptoms remaining for 7+ days

I've had fatigue and light flu-like symptoms for the last 7 days. I've experienced no improvement, but no worsening of symptoms either. I struggle to wake up in the mornings, and my eyes feel puffy and swollen and watery at times. I get a 7-8 hours' sleep but, on waking, it still feels like I haven't rested.

I have a sore throat and a stuffy chest, with some phlegm build-up and a scratchy, dry cough. I'm also experiencing some muscle fatigue, especially in my lower back.

I feel slightly light-headed at times, and I've lost my appetite to some extent. Even an hour after meals, I get an "empty-stomach" feeling. Heartburn is also more prevalent. Can this be a virus?

Expert: Yes, it most definitely can be due to a viral infection. You should get a lot of bed rest and drink a lot of fluids. Viral infections can take up to 14 days to clear. For the heartburn, you can take Gaviscon, three times daily before meals. If the heartburn doesn't subside and worsens, you should consult your doctor for a gastroscopy, as a peptic ulcer can be responsible for the chronic fatigue.

Q: Flu, sinusitis and chest congestion

I need some advice with regards to flu, and specifically the sinusitis and chest congestion brought on by it. Generally, I treat the flu before it takes hold, but I caught my most recent bout of flu just too late. As a result, I'm struggling to sleep and I find it very difficult to breathe until my sinuses are clear again.

Even after the flu has gone, the sinus congestion and the heavy chest remain. I don't like drinking a lot of medicine, so I would like to know what my alternatives are? Where can I get hold of remedies, and some general info with regards to remedies?

It should be noted that I was born with chronic asthma. I don’t have to use medication for it anymore, but when sinusitis sets in, I still occasionally suffer from asthma. I also have a postnasal drip.

Expert: There's no cure for the flu. The only accepted remedy is strict bed rest, as well as hydration with clear oral fluids. If you have asthma, you're at risk for a lower respiratory tract infection. I therefore suggest that you consult your doctor for an examination to exclude the development of a secondary bacterial infection of the lower respiratory tract.

If you do suffer from sinusitis, you can ask your doctor for treatment if a secondary bacterial infection has developed. It will be worthwhile to investigate if you're suffering from chronic allergic rhinitis (hay fever).