Fighting the Flu
There have been quite a few cases of the flu circulating through the Portland area. The flu has been responsible for many hospitalizations already in 2014 and has been responsible for a few deaths. It is not something to take lightly and everyone must take precautions to keep themselves well. Flu season peaks in January or February but flu can still occur into April and May.
One question I continue to get is about the flu vaccination and this is not something that I can answer for you. What I do understand is that the flu virus that is circulating and responsible for many of the hospitalizations is the H1N1 virus strain. Unlike when the first epidemic of H1N1 occurred, this year’s flu vaccine actually does include the H1N1 strain.
There are two influenza vaccines available this season, Flucelvax® and Flublok®. They are manufactured using new production techniques: Flucelvax® is the first seasonal influenza vaccine licensed in the United States that is produced using cultured animal cells instead of fertilized chicken eggs. Flublok® is the first seasonal influenza vaccine made using recombinant techniques and does not use eggs at all in its production. Flublok® also does not use the influenza virus in its production. There is no egg-free form approved for children under the age of 18.
There are vaccines that cover 3 strains of the flu and vaccines that cover 4 strains of the flu. Flu viruses are constantly changing so it’s not unusual for a new flu virus strain to appear each year. This is sometimes how the flu shot goes wrong. A perfect example is when H1N1 first came. The flu shot did not protect against it. The flu shot is an educated guess made in January or February on what strains will be the most virulent, but the strains aren’t always correctly chosen.
You can get the flu shot and still get the flu. This would occur if you got the flu of a different strain not covered in the vaccination. Some people get the flu after getting the vaccination, but it may be less severe than actually contracting the illness. Some people can get infected with a flu virus the flu vaccine is designed to protect against despite getting vaccinated. Protection provided by the flu vaccination can vary widely! Flu vaccination is not a perfect tool!
Adverse reactions that can occur after flu vaccination:
- The most frequent reactions reported after vaccination in children and adults are pain and other injection-site reactions. Up to 64% of people vaccinated with IIV experience pain at the injection site, which usually resolves in less than 2 days without treatment.
- Fever, malaise, myalgia, and other systemic symptoms that can occur after vaccination.
- Ocular or respiratory symptoms (e.g., red eyes, hoarse voice, cough) have occasionally been reported within 24 hours after administration in some studies, but are typically mild and resolve quickly without specific treatment.
- Vaccine components can on rare occasions cause allergic reactions, also called immediate hypersensitivity reactions. Symptoms of immediate hypersensitivity range from mild urticaria (hives) and angioedema (swelling beneath the skin) to anaphylaxis.
Natural Ways to Prevent the Flu:
- Wash your hands many times throughout the day. Wash your hands after touching door knobs, grocery carts, computers, phones, after using the restroom, and after blowing your nose. Do not touch bathroom door knobs, toilets, doors without using a paper towel.
- Keep hydrated. Make sure to drink at least ½ your weight in ounces of filtered water daily.
- Avoid sugar, candy, pastries, soda, and juice.
- Consume dark green leafy vegetables daily.
- Consume garlic daily. Garlic contains immune boosting chemicals.
- Keep warm. Keep yourself from becoming chilled outside. If you need to be outside for prolonged periods of time, keep your feet dry and your head warm.
- Drink green tea. It will keep your insides warmed and offers a huge supply of needed antioxidants.
- Get enough proper sleep. For adults, getting to bed at 10 pm is extremely healthy during flu season. For every hour of sleep you get before midnight, it is largely beneficial for the immune system. For children, make sure they get enough rest and sleep. As children vary widely in their sleep patterns, it is difficult to state a time so make sure you error on having your children more than not enough.
- Keep active. Get regular exercise or walk daily.
- Take a daily probiotic. 4 billion in children up to 25 billion in adults daily. Make sure your probiotic is from a good source.
- Take extra Vitamin C. Taking an additional 1000 – 3000 mg of Vitamin C is helpful through the flu months.
- Take Vitamin D. Taking 1000 – 2000 IU of Vitamin D 3 daily has been shown to decrease the incidence of the flu.
If you feel yourself coming down with something:
- Gargle salt water.
- Do a nasal lavage daily with real or sea salt and water or probiotics and water. You can purchase a netty pot online or in health food stores. I personally don’t like a netty pot and don’t think you need one to get the job done. You can use a small dropper from a tincture bottle and save money by not purchasing a netty pot.
- Take additional Vitamin A. In a non-pregnant female, taking 10,000 IU per day during cold and flu season is appropriate dosing.
- Consume raw garlic daily.
- Take Elderberry. Taking Elder Berry syrup or other forms of Elderberry can help strengthen the immune system. Elderberry has been shown to shorten the duration of the flu.
- Drink homemade vegetable soup broths, making sure to include 1 whole bunch of parsley, onions, and garlic.
- Eat lightly
- Avoid white flour, sugar, dairy, corn, alcohol, gluten, juice, and dried fruit.