The Ultimate Guide to Preventing Seasonal Viruses and Allergy Symptoms
How effective is the flu shot at preventing seasonal illness? It turns out, the flu vaccine can only prevent a small portion of viral symptoms each year and it does nothing to help seasonal allergies! Read on to learn natural remedies for seasonal viruses and allergies that are more effective than the flu shot!
Despite all of the thousands of medications and studies conducted over nearly 100 years, modern medicine still does not have anything substantial to prevent developing cold and flu infections.
Even the precious flu shot may not be as effective as mainstream public health announcements would have you believe. Confusing the issue even more is that many flu-like infections are not actually the flu at all, but rather are other viral infections or even allergies.
Although the CDC and other global organizations continue to push the need for getting a flu shot each year, the flu shot can prevent only a small number of infections each year. The flu shot will do nothing to prevent seasonal allergy symptoms, colds, and other viral infections. Research shows that the flu vaccine is only effective in certain situations.
If the vaccine will only prevent a small number of infections each year, what can you really do to stop the spread of viral infections?
Read on to find out more about the flu vaccine and how to prevent cold and flu viruses and prevent seasonal allergies.
Each year, the effectiveness of the flu shot varies. Because the flu, much like the cold virus, changes each year, scientists use educated guesses to determine which flu strains to place in the shot. The scientists use analytics based on the flu patterns of previous years to estimate which flu strains will be most prominent for the upcoming season.
Usually, the flu shot contains strains of the top 3-4 flu strains that are estimated to become the most widespread each year. However, it is impossible to completely predict which flu strains will be the most predominant of the season. Most years, the flu shot has an effectiveness rating of between 47 and 62 percent, according to data collected by the CDC. This information may come as a surprise to many who believe that getting the flu shot will absolutely prevent them from getting the flu at all.
But, with an average of about a 50/50 protection chance, the flu shot is actually less effective at preventing you from getting the flu than hand washing.
In 2015, the CDC has stated that an uprising in a strain of flu not included in the vaccine has made the 2014-2015 flu season one of the worst in recent history. This season, the H3N2 flu virus is the most predominant strain.
According to CDC director Dr. Tom Frieden, the H3N2 flu virus is one of the most dangerous strains. 90 percent of flu cases in 2014 and 2015 were the H3N2 flu virus. According to the CDC, half of these flu viruses are strains not in the vaccine, giving this year’s flu shot an effectiveness rating of about 48 to 50 percent. The flu outbreak was so severe in 2013 and 2014 that it reached epidemic status. 105 children were reported to the CDC as dying from flu-related complications.
Hospitalizations rates were the highest in 2013 and 2014 than in any previously-documented year, including the swine flu outbreak of 2009. During the 2014 to 2015 season the proportion of deaths related to the flu was well above the epidemic threshold of 7.2 percent and was at 8.5 in January 2015. This is the highest recorded number of deaths that have occurred in over a decade. Most deaths in the 2014-2015 season were associated with strains not included in the flu shot.
Each year, the CDC reports that about 200,000 Americans are hospitalized from the flu and about 30,000 people worldwide die from flu-related complications.
Although varying forms of the flu shot have existed since the 1930s, it was not until the swine flu pandemic of 2009 that the flu vaccine gained full traction. Since 2009, health professionals and pharmacies have placed pressure on both children and adults to get vaccinated against the flu. E-Medicine Health estimates that in 1970, fewer than 25 percent of individuals were vaccinated against the flu. In 2013, about 46 percent of Americans got the flu shot.
According to the CDC, the percentages varied by age and profession.
Because such a small percentage of individuals get the flu shot each year, it is difficult to identify if the shot itself has any side effects. However, some studies indicate that it might cause problems with some people groups.
A study from 2010 published in The Cochrane Library examined the clinical trials on the effectiveness of the flu vaccine in healthy adults with a total study group of over 70,000. Between the groups of unvaccinated people vs vaccinated people, 4 percent of unvaccinated people and 1 percent of vaccinated people caught the flu.
According to the researchers, the vaccinations did have a beneficial effect on the duration of the flu. However, the researchers did not find that vaccination reduced flu-related complications, such as hospitalization, the development of pneumonia, or a reduction in virus transmission to others.
Additionally, the researchers found that inactivated vaccines caused local harm and an increase of 1.6 percent for developing Guillain-Barré Syndrome per million vaccinations. Influenza vaccines have a modest effect in reducing influenza symptoms and working days lost. There is no evidence that they affect complications, such as pneumonia, or transmission.
The researchers stated, “At best, vaccines might be effective against only influenza A and B, which represent about 10% of all circulating viruses.” Additionally, the study authors stated, “In average conditions (partially matching vaccine) 100 people need to be vaccinated to avoid one set of influenza symptoms.”
Another study conducted on children who get the flu vaccine published in The Cochrane Library in 2012 found that giving children under the age of two a flu vaccine was no more effective than a placebo. However, the study did find that the nasal vaccine was slightly more effective than the shot vaccine. In rare cases, side effects such as narcolepsy and febrile convulsions were associated with vaccinating children under the age of two against the flu. The study authors stated that 8 children had to be vaccinated to prevent 1 additional case of the flu virus.
Research from Canada published in 2012 found even more shocking information about the flu vaccine for children. According to research from five Canadian studies, the flu vaccine may interfere with normal immune responses- making it more likely that children may get other illnesses later. When the researchers gave the flu virus to both vaccinated ferrets and unvaccinated ferrets, it was actually the vaccinated ferrets who became sicker. However, the results of this test are in question because of the possible difference between the flu strain used in the vaccine and the active strain used to infect the ferrets.
What is troubling the most about the children’s studies on flu vaccines is how little safety information there is available. The Cochrane Library study from 2012 found that there was only one study conducted on the safety of the flu shot for children under the age of two. The researchers stated that more research is necessary before public health organizations make blanket statements about the safety of the flu vaccine for young children.
In general, studies agree that the average effectiveness of the flu shot is about 50 percent, and that if the vaccine fails to guard against the flu, it will not make symptoms any less severe.
Even if you have decided to get the flu shot, at least for this year, you are not protected against the most common strain of the flu. This means that you have about the same risk of getting the flu as someone who has not been vaccinated.
Additionally, there are many other “flu-like” viruses that can give flu symptoms that the flu vaccine will not protect against. Cold viruses, for example, are not prevented by the flu vaccine. So, what can you do to protect your health and make sure that you don’t catch these viruses?
Luckily, there are a number of effective prevention tips that can help you build your immune system and fight off winter viruses and bugs.
According to studies, handwashing is the most effective way to prevent the spread of infection. A recent study from the World Health Organization found that hand washing before eating and after using the toilet could cut down the rate of overall infection spread by 25 percent.
Another study conducted in Pakistan found that children under the age of five who washed their hands had an over 50 percent reduction in pneumonia infections.
Just by washing your hands before eating and after visiting the bathroom you can dramatically cut down on the spread of cold and flu viruses. You should also wash your hands after sneezing, touching your nose or face, and touching public surfaces.
How you wash your hands is equally important. Experts recommend washing your hands in hot water for at least 20 seconds with soap. Pay special attention to the bed of the nails and under the fingernails. Viruses and other infections tend to linger in these areas. Another simple way to prevent the spread of infection is by keeping your hands out of your mouth. Instruct children to keep their hands out of their mouths as well to encourage healthy habits.
It is impossible to avoid all exposure to common viruses, such as the cold, flu, and stomach viruses. Even if you wash your hands frequently, someone will sneeze on you at least once in your life. To combat viruses that are already inside you, you must have a strong immune system. Certain nutrients are better at building the immune system than others.
Essential immune-boosting nutrients include vitamin C, vitamin D, vitamin E, B vitamins, Zinc, selenium, and vitamin A. According to Harvard Health, these nutrients are essential to the formation of a healthy immune system. Get plenty of these nutrients from your diet and supplement to fill in any gaps. Some individuals choose to boost their intake of immune-boosting nutrients daily through cold and flu season. Others take extra supplements at the first sign of sickness.
Harvard Health also states that a few herbal supplements may also be effective at improving the immune system. Harvard Health states that Echinacea, garlic, ginseng, and probiotics may all provide extra immunity boosts during cold and flu season. In addition to fighting seasonal viruses, many of these same ingredients can also help fight off seasonal allergies- which are often mistaken for viral infections.
According to two recent studies, both children and adults with low vitamin D levels are more likely to get sick during the winter months. Vitamin D levels are typically much lower in the winter, which may contribute to an increase in cold and flu spread.
A study from 2006 found that children who were exposed to daily sunlight had fewer winter infections than children kept indoors. A study from 2009 found that adults who had low vitamin D levels were more likely to report having been ill with a respiratory illness recently.
According to recent studies, elderberry extract may be as effective, and possibly more so, at treating the flu than the existing vaccination. Studies cited by The Wall Street Journal show that taking elderberry syrup extract at the onset of flu symptoms could reduce the duration of the illness by up to three days. Additionally, in lab studies, elderberry has an anti-viral effect on cells.
Other studies have shown that elderberry contains a high level of anthocyanins, which are known to boost the power of the immune system. Adding elderberry to your medicine cabinet may be an effective remedy at preventing severe viral symptoms.
Although there is no way to completely prevent your body from ever getting sick, if you equip it with the right tools, you will reduce your risk of getting cold and flu viruses each year. Eating a healthy diet, getting some sun, stocking elderberry, and supplementing with any nutrient gaps can not only help reduce your rate of infection, but may also work to reduce seasonal allergy symptoms as well. With just a little extra effort (and a daily trip outside), you can reduce your risk of getting infected by cold and flu viruses more than if you get the flu shot.
Ginde AA, Mansbach JM, Camargo CA, Jr. Association between serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D
level and upper respiratory tract infection in the Third National Health and Nutrition.
Examination Survey. Arch Intern Med. 2009
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