Infectolab - flu season

How To Keep Your Viral Load In Check During Flu Season

Chronic viral conditions can be hard to cope with, especially when cold and flu season rolls around. People with viral conditions such as EBV or HIV have to pay closer attention to their immune function and overall health than those without any preexisting conditions, as they are more susceptible to immune dysfunction and the serious repercussions that can come with having a compromised immune system.

Different factors come into play for those with preexisting conditions at risk of coming down with a serious case of the flu during the winter season, but one particular factor is of the utmost importance: the viral load.

What is viral load?

A person with a chronic viral infection will have varying amounts of the virus in their blood at any given time. This is referred to as their viral load. When it comes to passing viral infections such as the flu, the viral load will continue to grow as the infection progresses. Since viral loads can differ each day, they are usually measured over longer terms to help determine whether or not a disease is progressing or lessening.

The viral load is important because it can help a person manage their chronic disease by keeping track of how the virus is flourishing. In cases such as the flu, it can also determine whether someone is recovering or whether the infection is getting worse.

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Image by Brittany Colette on Unsplash: Keeping your viral load in check could help stave off the flu this season.

Tests used to track viral load

To track viral load, three specific tests can be used. The first is the reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction test. This test converts RNA into DNA to help determine levels of virus RNA in the blood. The second test used to track viral load is a branched DNA test. It measures nucleic acids in the blood that indicate viral load levels.

The third and final test is the nucleic acid sequence-based amplification test. This specific test is used to make copies of single-stranded RNA. Since all these tests measure differently, monitoring for viral load should only be done using one test method at a time. When it comes to influenza viral load, the test most often used is the reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction test.

Viral load and flu severity

Since viral loads measure the progression of a disease, it has been found that an increase in viral load is directly related to the duration and severity of the flu. As viral load becomes more prevalent throughout the blood, symptoms become worse. Studies have found that an increased viral load led to more hospitalizations for flu patients.

It has also been found that not all influenza viruses are the same when it comes to their viral load. For example, Influenza A has the highest viral load when grouped in with both Influenza B and human rhinovirus.

Which antiviral most rapidly decreases influenza viral load?

Although the best defenses against a virus are vaccination, avoidance of transmission, and healthy immune function, some antiviral medications can help decrease viral load and shedding. According to the CDC, there are four medications that can help decrease viral load and shedding for influenza. They include:

  • Oseltamivir phosphate
  • Zanamivir
  • Peramivir
  • Baloxavir

However, these medications are not right for everyone, and some could come with unwanted side effects. There are other ways to help keep viral loads in check during flu season that do not require the use of medications.

How to decrease viral load

For those without pre-existing conditions such as EBV or HIV, you won’t have to worry about keeping your viral load down unless you do happen to catch a virus such as the flu. If you do have a chronic viral infection, keeping your load down will make it easier to ward off a secondary infection such as the flu.

Keeping the immune system healthy is a great way to help reduce viral load amounts in the blood. This means adopting a lifestyle that includes a varied diet rich with vitamins and nutrients, regular exercise, and adequate sleep. Adaptogens such as Rhodiola rosea have also been shown to help improve immune function, thus reducing viral load.

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Image by Ola Mishchenko on Unsplash: Eating a varied diet with whole nutritious foods can help boost immune function and help keep viral loads in check.

Vitamins and nutrients for boosted immunity

When it comes to diet, one study found that many specific vitamins and minerals could play key roles in the recovery from a virus infection. Vitamin A was found to improve immune function because of its effects on immune response. It also has the potential to boost antibody response after vaccinations. Vitamin D can also help with viral load because of its direct effect on the modulation of the innate and adaptive immune systems. Deficiency in vitamin D increases susceptibility to infection, so for those worried about viral loads, supplementation can be a great help.

Vitamin E has antioxidant properties and has been shown to be helpful in the treatment of hepatitis infections. Vitamin C is also an essential antioxidant that can help boost the immune responses against Influenza A.

Trace elements such as zinc have also been shown to improve the immune system’s reaction to viral infection. Those with zinc deficiencies are also more at risk of acquiring new infectious diseases such as HIV. Selenium was found to have antiviral properties when taken in a higher concentration. Copper can also help to reduce the severity of viral infection because it can inhibit the replication of human influenza viruses. Magnesium can also help boost immunity against viral infections.

Warding off infections can be difficult, especially if the body is already dealing with a chronic viral infection. By partaking in immune-boosting activities and giving the body what it needs, you can help keep your viral load in check to minimize the negative effects of the flu virus this winter.

Featured image by stevepb on Pixabay

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