Influenza is quite different from the common cold. And it's much more debilitating. However, it often starts off in much the same way, as your symptoms demonstrate how your body is mounting its defence.

Like the common cold, it is spread as a virus, so antibiotics have no effect on it.

However, antibiotics have often been used in the past to prevent or ameliorate some of the unpleasant diseases your body may meet after being weakened by 'flu.

Influenza is very contagious.

Man Behind Glass © Vvo - Depression Photo

Common Influenza Symptoms

  • fever
  • muscle pain and heaviness
  • headache
  • fatigue: extreme - you may be unable to stand
  • loss of appetite - nausea perhaps
  • dry cough
  • sore throat
  • running nose
  • pain when moving the eyes
  • sometimes - dizziness

Incubation period

About 2 days. This means you soon know if you have it. It also means you can unknowingly spread it fast. That means it spreads quickly.

Analysis in Chinese medicine

In case you haven't realised it yet, this site aims to explain how Chinese medicine works in English. You might wonder what Chinese medicine has to offer, when Western medicine has been investigating this virus and what to do about it for many years.

Well, just remember that Chinese medicine has been going for 3000 years at least. It has used very different ways to understand and explain illness, and what to do about it.

Scientists are increasingly discovering that Chinese medical forms of treatment are often just as effective as Western medicine, and sometimes more effective. The WHO approves of acupuncture for many forms of disease.

AND, they don't usually get the side effects you suffer from taking modern drugs - medications.

In nearly every case of influenza, the basic diagnosis is Damp-Heat.

(Bit of technical stuff: this is  classified as being Damp-Heat at the Defensive (wei) level in Chinese medicine. The Defensive (wei) level is the outermost of the Four Levels, which show how hot-type pathogens invade the body, and the damage they do and the way your body resists as diseases penetrate deeper through your defences.)

Everyone is different, of course, so the actual diagnosis has other syndromes which fill out the particular symptoms picture you display.

What to do

  • On the question of vaccination there are some remarks which will not please everyone
  • This page covers how to help yourself avoid this disease
  • Failing that, it suggests what you can do to ameliorate it

Avoiding Influenza - Vaccination

You may be tempted to get vaccinated against flu. Most governments spend a great deal of effort persuading you of the benefits of the jab. 

Although doctors insist that the latest 'flu vaccines will protect you, there are disadvantages to having the jab, too. And of, course, if the 'flu turns out to be different to the virus against which you've been vaccinated, it won't work much if at all.

What is more, according to recent reviews in the Cochrane Database of Systematic reports, there is very little evidence that the vaccination makes much difference, for instance for the elderly or for the healthcare workers who care for them. Similar reports cast doubt on the beneficial effects of influenza vaccination in children under 2.

I don't know how good the reports by doctors are of the ill-effects of vaccination, but I have seen many patients who developed various complaints in the weeks immediately following immunisation.

NEWS UPDATE ... The current UK flu vaccine is almost certainly ineffective against the main flu affecting us in winter 2017/18. For more on this, see the links further down this page. 

Avoiding Influenza - Hygiene

As a virus, flu spreads by entering your body. It can do this via your:

  • mouth
  • eyes
  • nose
  • cuts in your skin

If you've been on public transport or in offices or places where many people pass, your hands or clothes will have been in touch with hand-rails and door-handles etc which others have touched.

Their touch, if less hygienic than yours, may have spread influenza or cold viruses liberally over the areas touched.

Read about how long viruses can survive outside the body here.

So, take care to wash your hands (warm, soapy water, rubbed into a lather than washed off under clean, running water before being dried with a clean cloth or tissue) before putting them anywhere near your mouth, eyes or nose.

If you must pick your nose, do it through a clean handkerchief!

Resist the temptation to scratch or wipe your eyes when you've been out in public areas.

Be cautious about shaking hands with people. If you do, wash your hands properly before you touch your mouth or eyes or nose. One suggestion I saw was to 'bump' elbows instead.

Wash your hands before eating. Take care to eat food that is properly prepared and cooked, and still hot enough to keep bugs dead. Also, eat from clean plates with clean cutlery.

Take care to cover and protect cuts and abrasions with appropriate dressings.

Avoiding Influenza - Nutrition

Yes, yes, I know about vitamin C. And D. And E. And Zinc. And Cod liver oil. And probably about a few other things that will pop up in time.

It's not that they are unimportant. If you are undernourished and lack the right nutrition to keep healthy, you'll get sick more easily, and not just from influenza!

For more on this, click on nutrition and supplements.

It's just that you can do something which, on its own, may be just as effective in making you less susceptible to influenza.

But you probably won't like it. What is it?

Sugar and Sweeteners. Or rather the LACK of them.

And not just not eating them - any kind of sweetener including honey, molasses, artificial sweeteners, stevia, maple syrup, golden syrup, corn syrup and any other kind of stuff that is sweet to taste - but also not eating anything which easily turns into sugar in your stomach.

That includes:

  • white bread or rolls which take only a few minutes to be turned into sugar by your stomach
  • sodas, energy drinks containing sugar or sweeteners, (in the UK these would include Irn Bru, Ribena, Vimto, Tizer and various Cokes and Lucozade for example. In the USA these would include Colas, Cokes, Mountain Dew, Sprite, Fantas, Crush, Sunkist, Dr Pepper ...!)
  • refined flours of any kind
  • cakes, biscuits
  • jams, sweet flavourings, even peanut butter
  • many root vegetables like potato, parsnip, carrot
  • most kinds of fruit, especially very sweet ones like banana
  • dried fruit, even if organic and from the highest, purest Tibetan mountain pastures or similar
  • sweets, chocolates, puddings, sweeties, jelly-babies etc
  • Supposedly healthy foods, like yogurt, that are sweetened
  • (This one I hate to include but ...) Alcohol turns to sugar in your blood pretty fast. Even faster if it's sweetened or very sweet, like many fortified wines, sherry and many cocktails. Just get your head round the fact that alcohol is really a rather dirty form of sugar which, as you digest and metabolise it, can muck up your liver and eventually your life, if you let it.
  • Artificial sweeteners, which confuse your Spleen, in effect making it expect something that doesn't arrive. Besides, artificial sweeteners have many critics - See also this link.

Sorry, but that's not all....

Other Foods to Avoid

  1. Avoid food that is raw or eaten chilled or cold. Why? Because they need more energy to digest. This doesn't matter if you are well and healthy. But when your immune force is lower, as it often is during winter months, it is better to eat food warm.
  2. Avoid milk and dairy products. Why? Because, whether you are sensitive to them or not, dairy products easily increase phlegm in your lungs and throat. Bugs LOVE phlegm!
  3. Avoid strong caffeine drinks. It makes you feel great in the short term but it does so by using up your adrenal energy, so you'll feel worse later. You don't want to feel worse later - you want to feel better later! Again, this probably matters less if you are young, healthy and well. However, when your energy is lower, don't over-stimulate it when you may be needing it to keep going during something much worse, like 'flu. Otherwise, it's like whipping an exhausted horse to go faster: it will, but not for long!

Why all this stuff about avoiding sugar and so on? Because it weakens your Spleen energy, the one that is mostly weakened by flu. All this advice is to help you maintain a healthy Spleen energy so that, if you do catch flu, your Spleen isn't already weak.

I hear you complain! What's left to eat?

You may complain - what is there left? 

Well, most green vegetables are ok, (eaten cooked and hot, of course), limited quantities of protein in the form of lentils or nuts, meat and fish are ok.

But since flu is generally of the damp-heat variety, you may benefit from avoiding foods that are too heating. There's a list under our page 'Hot-Foods' though it's not guaranteed to cover every known food.

Also, avoid or reduce 'Damp-Heat' foods.

Foods classified as  hot include some kinds of meat, such as beef and lamb. Chicken is only mildly warm. But avoid spices which heat up the food you eat.

And don't over-eat. Don't stuff it down! Your body will be more adaptable and nimble in combating the invader if it isn't trying to process an enormous meal. So eat smaller meals. 

And don't graze - ie don't eat a little all the time. Give your digestion time to recover between meals. If you maintain a steady train of food progressing down your throat you could even end up with food-retention. You don't want that too! That's even worse for your Spleen!

What to do if you've caught influenza?

We've got a whole page on this. It covers some of what you've read here already, but it goes into more of what you haven't read.

Take the time to read it! You may thank me.

And stay home, so you don't spread it. Keep warm and drink water. And eat sparingly.

Bottom line? Best Advice?

Single best bit of advice, both there and here?

Don't take analgesics or painkillers or anything that might bring your fever down artificially.

Let your body fire up the furnaces and burn out the flu the way millions of years of evolution have shown works.

Of course, if you are already very weakened by age or infirmity, seek professional advice. This page is for supposedly healthy people! 

Say 'NO!' to analgesics!

What about AFTER 'flu?

Be careful.

  1. Lots of people die after they've got over flu. Influenza is exhausting and often causes inflammation eg in your blood vessels so heart attacks and strokes become more likely. Older people are more susceptible, because they've had more time to acquire inflammations which come from life's knocks and blows. But young people who live in the fast lane and use Western medicine to suppress health problems can succumb too. Read our page on Suppression.
  2. Flu weakens not just your Spleen but your Lungs. That means a mild cough that came with flu may return or persist. That's often when you get pneumonia, which is a really insidious disease because you can seem well, when really you're not. Though I dislike antibiotics, this may be when you need them, as they can treat pneumonia (though not flu).
  3. Or better, if there's a lot of phlegm with the cough, read my book "Yuck! Phlegm!". It was written for you and it doesn't cost much. You can download it to your Kindle, too.
  4. Drink Sage tea. Why? Well, it's explained in my book but it's good for clearing mucus, for strengthening immunity, and for your lungs. Buy lots of it (dried leaves) and make them into a tisane, taken regularly. 

You need time to recover, so:

  • Rest more: go out less.
  • Sleep more
  • Eat sparingly, continuing to avoid sweet and cold foods
  • However, enjoy a little spicier food if it helps to warm you - root ginger especially
  • Exercise a little, in fresh air, but not so you get chilled or exhausted
  • Drink enough to keep your urine from becoming very coloured (that's assuming you aren't eating foods or supplements that colour it, like B vitamins, Beetroot etc.)

More information?

  • Read the New Scientist, 6 January 2018, pages 28 - 32.
  • The UK health authorities may have used a vaccine that is ineffective against the 2017/18 flu (virus-type B) that is currently most active. See

Booking Consultations with Jonathan Clogstoun-Willmott

Click here to see when Jonathan is available, or to BOOK your appointment online. 

Alternatively, ring him on 07950 012501 or freephone (only free to telephone within the UK) 0800 298 7015.

Jonathan Clogstoun-Willmott Books

All the books in the 'Chinese Medicine in English' series should be fully accessible on Kindles and Kindle apps. (Or you can buy the softback print editions, of course.)

('Western Astrology and Chinese Medicine' published 1986, was never available in a Kindle version.)

Request! Please!

If, having read one of my books you can write a review - preferably positive - that would help others decide whether to read it.

You can put your review on Amazon or, on this site, here.

And if you think it was terrible?

Well, let me know so I can improve it for the next person. (Ideally let me know before cursing it in public!)

Here are some of the books I (Jonathan) have written.

Subscribers to Kindle Unlimited can borrow the first four for 'free'.

Qi Stagnation - Signs of Stress

Yin Deficiency - Burnout and Exhaustion

Yang Deficiency - Get Your Fire Burning Again!

Yuck! Phlegm! How to Clear Your Phlegm ...

Western Astrology and Chinese Medicine

Published 1986 and, amazingly, still selling. Western Astrology and Chinese Medicine was apparently used back then by at least one acupuncture college to help students understand Chinese medicine! See Reviews.

Seven Reviews so far for Yuck Phlegm. (Despite the lurid cover, it explains the five main types of phlegm and what works best for each type. I hope it's easy to read and will be much more useful than all the websites on the subject.)

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