Fall is upon us and winter is just around the corner, and that brings influenza season. Flu season begins in October and can last throughout May. Typical flu symptoms include fever (in some people), chills, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle aches, headaches, fatigue, vomiting and diarrhea. The flu virus is extremely contagious and can spread from one person to another when someone talks, sneezes, or coughs, even 6 feet away. The flu virus can even survive on surfaces and can spread when someone touches that surface and then touches their mouths and noses. Someone with the flu can infect others about 1 day before symptoms start and about 1 week after becoming ill. The flu can last anywhere from a few days, to a few weeks.
During this time, many people will be lining up to get their flu vaccines, with the hope of preventing the flu completely. However, Rice University recently released a study showing that the 2018 flu vaccine will only have a 20% efficacy. This means that in a population, 20% fewer vaccination people will get the flu compared to unvaccinated people.
Whether you decide to get the flu vaccine or not, it is important to strengthen the immune system to prevent getting the flu. If you are infected by the flu, there are many things that can be done to help the body fight and get better faster. Here are some examples of how to prevent getting the flu and what can be done if you catch the flu:
- Proper Hygiene: Wash hands with warm soapy water frequently throughout the day. If this is not possible, using hand sanitizer is a good alternative.
- Avoidance: If you are sick, stay home from work or school. If you encounter sick people at work or school, keep a distance and wear a surgical mask.
- Cover it Up: Cough and sneeze into elbows and arms, not hands.
- Rest, Hydrate (with water), and Exercise: These things will help support the immune system so it will be strong to fight off infections.
- Nutrition: Eat plenty of colorful fruits and vegetables. Avoid simple carbohydrates, alcohol, and sugar since these foods can weaken the immune system. Avoid mucus producing foods, when sick, such as dairy, since these can increase runny and stuffy noses, as well as chest congestion.
- Gargle: For sore throats, gargle with salt and warm water, for 30 seconds, one to three times daily.
- Herbal Teas: There are many herbal teas that are soothing for the throat and stomach such as chamomile and ginger. There are other teas that are great at boosting the immune system such as elderberry and peppermint.
- Vitamin C: Vitamin C has been shown to increase immune cells and decrease the life cycle of viruses. It has also been shown to decrease lung inflammation caused by viruses. It is recommended that adults take 3,000mg a day for prevention and 2,000mg 4 times a day during illness.
- Elderberry Syrup: Elderberry has been reported to have antiviral activity for influenza viruses. It has also been shown to reduce the duration of the flu by an average of 4 days. It is recommended that adults take 1 teaspoon once a day for prevention and 1 teaspoon three times a day during illness.
- Oscillococcinum: This homeopathic remedy has been reported to reduce the frequency of respiratory tract infections. The recommended preventative dose for adults is one tube once a day, and the dose once sick is one tube every 6 hours up to 3 times a day.
The above recommendations are just some basics. There are many other vitamins, minerals, and herbs that are also very effective at preventing the flu and supporting the body when the body has the flu. Please speak with your naturopathic doctor to create an individualized treatment plan for your specific concerns.
Boyd, Jade. “Study Predicts 2018 Flu Vaccine Will Have 20 Percent Efficacy.” Current News. 19 April 2018, news.rice.edu/2018/04/19/study-predicts-2018-flu-vaccine-will-have-20-percent-efficacy-2/.
Hyemin, Kim. “Red Ginseng and Vitamin C Increase Immune Cell Activity and Decrease Lung Inflammation Induced by Influenza A Virus/H1N1 Infection.” Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmacology. 21 February, 2016, onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/jphp.12529H.
Zakay-Rones, Z. “Randomized Study of the Efficacy and Safety of Oral Elderberry Extract in the Treatment of Influenza A and B Virus Infections.” Journal of International Medical Research. 1 April, 2004, journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/147323000403200205?url_ver=Z39.88-2003&rfr_id=ori%3Arid%3Acrossref.org&rfr_dat=cr_pub%3Dpubmed&.
Colombo, Giorgio. “The Preventative Effect on Respiratory Tract Infections of Oscillococcinum®. A Cost-Effectiveness Analysis.” Clinicoecon Outcomes Research. www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5788925/.
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