What You Can Do This Flu Season
Cause for concern?
We are in the midst of a very active Influenza season with most areas of North America reporting very high incidences of Influenza like illnesses (ILI) and Influenza resulting in significant visits to the doctor, absenteeism from school, and lost wages due to time off of work. This 2017-2018 flu season is particularly harsh and is compares to the 2012-2013 and 2014-2015 seasons for severity.
The flu is caused by influenza viruses that cause a respiratory illness affecting the nose, throat, and lungs. Contagion (ability to spread the virus) can exist from the day before symptoms appear and last for 5-7 days. The disease may be mild or severe with the latter seen in the very young, elderly, and immune compromised population.
Do flu shots work?
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends vaccination against Influenza for everyone 6 months or older who does not have contraindications. The rationale for this recommendation takes into consideration the idea that the more widely the population is vaccinated the less chance of viral penetration.
The efficacy of vaccination has been reported as low as 10%. In addition statistics have shown the Number Needed to Vaccinate (NNV) to prevent 1 case of Influenza is as high as 71.
Furthermore, the weapons, neuraminidase inhibitors, in the physicians arsenal to treat the illness once diagnosed come with only modest benefits and potentially serious side effects. These side effects commonly include nausea and vomiting and can be debilitating. In addition the risk of serious psychiatric syndromes, renal syndromes, and headaches is increased. A 2014 Cochrane Collaboration Report on review of neuraminidase inhibiters concludes, “The trade-off between benefits and harms should be borne in mind when making decisions to use oseltamivir for treatment, prophylaxis, or stockpiling.”
According to the CDC
Children, especially those younger than 5 years, are at higher risk for serious flu-related complications.
What can I take to avoid the flu?
So how does one behave in this climate? Stay indoors? Wear a mask?
Several studies support the role of Vitamin D in immune health and specifically in the prevention of Influenza. In one study, school-age children given 1000 IU of Vitamin D daily had a lower incidence of Influenza compared to similar children given a placebo.
In another study, adults supplementing daily with Vitamin D had fewer acute respiratory illnesses and influenza like illnesses than those who didn’t supplement.
Another interesting supplement in the management of influenza is elderberry. Black elderberry extract has been demonstrated clinically to reduce severity and duration of symptoms when taken within the first 48 hours of onset of influenza. Elderberry extract is considered safe and appears to be an efficient and cost effective means of reducing the impact of influenza on society.
Probiotics have been demonstrated too strengthen the immune system and reduce the incidence and effects of ILI in young children. See the study here.
Peter’s Top 5 Things to Avoid the Flu
I would suggest maintaining a robust and resilient immune system through
- Nutrition: Immune system maintenance requires a steady intake of the necessary vitamins and minerals.
- Hydration: Staying adequately hydrated can help your body eliminate toxins and waste materials, making your immune system able to better fight infection. Don’t wait until you are thirsty before you drink. Thirst is an indicator of dehydration and we need to stay hydrated. The formula for daily water intake states the quantity of water (measured in ounces) equals ½ total body weight (measured in pounds).
For example: a 128 pound individual should consume 64 ounces or ½ gallon of water daily.
- Exercise: Especially in winter it is important to maintain an exercise regimen. Keep warm when outside; dress in layers. Take up an outdoor activity; snow shoeing and ice skating, if available in your area, are two excellent and not overly expensive means of getting outdoors and keeping fit in winter. Take up a team sport such as indoor volleyball or do yoga at home. Whichever you choose, for best results, make it fun and stick to it.
- A good night’s sleep: Anything under 7 hours can impact our mood, energy, and immune system. During sleep our body, brain, and our cells refresh, repair, and rejuvenate. To support this process, we should maintain healthy sleep habits including: sticking to a sleep schedule, even on weekends and holidays. Avoiding lighted screens and monitors for at least ½ hour before sleep. Not consuming alcohol for several hours before. It may help you fall asleep only to have you waken when the effect wears off. Sleep in a cool darkened room for comfort and to aid in falling asleep
- Supplementation: For example, taking black elderberry not only reduced the severity of influenza, but also the duration. See the study. Here are some of our favorites: propbiotics, vitamin D, and vitamin C booster.
- Taking vitamin D 10.8%
- Not taking vitamin D 18.6%