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Stop Flu and Cold Viruses Before the Peak of Flu Season

You don't have to suffer through multitudes of cold and flu viruses this year. Use these natural methods to keep cold and flu viruses at bay.
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Flu and cold season starts right when temperatures drop. Peak cold and flu season lasts between October and April each year, peaking in January and February each year, according to Web MD. Some colds and the flu can last for a week or longer, which can have consequences for work, school, and holiday festivities. If you want to protect yourself from these viruses this flu season, take the following steps.

Stop Viruses with Hygiene

You can help reduce your chances of getting colds and flu viruses this season by keeping clean. These simple hygienic measures will help protect you from colds and flu this season.

Keep Clean

Regular bathing and showering are effective at removing harmful viruses from the skin. One of the most effective ways at reducing your chances of getting colds and the flu is with frequent hand washing, according to the Center for Disease Control. The CDC recommends that adults and children wash their hands after sneezing or coughing, before every meal, after coming into contact with a sick person, after using the bathroom, after touching garbage, after touching animals, and before preparing food.

Keep Your Home Clean

Keeping your home clean is a great way to stop the spread of cold and flu viruses, which can live on surfaces for up to eight hours, according to the CDC. However, you may want to think twice before using antibacterial products to clean your home. According to the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology, many of home antibacterial products are simply a marketing ploy, and show no greater benefit in fighting viruses and bacteria than old-fashioned soap in water. Most antibacterial products do nothing to fight viral infections like the flu and cold virus. In fact, some doctors are concerned that the overuse of antibacterial products could help lead to the development of antibacterial-resistant bacteria, according to a September 2013 report from ABC News.

Avoid Touching Your Face

Touching your face is a fast way to spread viruses. Your nose, mouth, and eyes are easy to infect with viruses, as many of the viruses are spread through body fluids. If you avoid touching your face, you will reduce your chances of getting sick this flu season. Avoid the illness You can lower your risk of developing infection by avoiding known sources for illnesses. If you know someone is sick, try to keep away from that person until they are healed. This can be difficult in school, home, and office situations, but it is one of the best ways to avoid getting sick.

Preventative Measures for Colds and Flu

In addition to hygiene, you can lower your chances of getting infected with a cold or flu virus by preparing your immune system in advance. One of the best ways to avoid infection of any kind is with a healthy body. Boost your immune system with these activities and supplements:

Exercise

Exercise is highly effective at boosting the immune system. According to the National Institute of Health, exercise fights off infection and boosts the immune system in the following ways: 

Immune Benefits of Exercise
  • Exercise flushes bacteria from the lungs
  • Exercise helps white blood cells (natural antibodies) move through the body faster
  • Higher body temperature prevents the spread of viruses
  • Exercise reduces stress symptoms

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is also necessary for a health immune system. Vitamin D is a highly effective immune booster. A 2010 study in Japan showed that children who took 1,200 IU of vitamin D each day showed a 67 percent reduced chance of getting type A flu. You can supplement with vitamin D during the winter, and also try to spend at least 10-30 minutes in the sun each day for added protection.

Garlic

Garlic is an immune-boosting food that is particularly beneficial in reducing the symptoms of upper respiratory infections. According to Web MD, garlic is so powerful it was used to treat gangrene in WWI and WWII. In clinical trials, it is also used to kill parasites.

Sleep

Sleep is important to build up your immune system. In fact, chronic sleeplessness can lead to serious health risks, including a higher risk for heart disease and heart attacks. Getting at least 7 hours of sleep a night will help your body rest and place your immune system in top condition. According to Web MD, sleepless individuals are partially at risk for contracting the flu, even if they have been vaccinated.

Vitamin A

Vitamin A works with other vitamins in the body to help fight infections. Specifically, vitamin A works to increase T-cell function and cytotoxicity, which boosts the immune response of the gut, according to a 2008 study from Harvard Medical School. Getting enough vitamin A is essential to ensure the body responds quickly and effectively to invading cold and flu viruses.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C has long been linked to immunity-boosting properties. A 2005 study from Harvard Medical school looked at the role of vitamin C and zinc in the protection from many common illnesses, including cold viruses. According to the study, during illness, levels of vitamin c in the body drop. Supplementing with vitamin C helps protect cells against inflammation and infection. Taking vitamin C in advance will help prepare the body to fight infections.

Zinc

A review of 15 zinc-related studies showed that individuals who took zinc for 5 months were able to prevent colds from developing about 40 percent of the time. The report also showed that children who take zinc at the first sign of a cold show reduced the number of days the children had to miss school. According to the study, zinc was most effective when taken before cold symptoms started, or within one day of the onset of cold symptoms, Web MD reports.

What About the Flu Shot?

Doctors and other health professionals recommend all healthy persons over the age of 6 months get the flu vaccine. The flu vaccine is a specially formulated protective agent designed to minimize the risk of getting a viral influenza strain during the peak of flu season (Usually between January and March). Most health professionals recommend getting the flu short as early in the season as possible, because it can take two weeks or more before the vaccine appropriately guards against the virus, according to Web MD. The New York Times reports that the effectiveness of the vaccine peaks between 4 and 6 weeks after getting the vaccine and the effectiveness drops after week 6.

How the Flu Vaccine Works

Each year, scientists must try to predict which strain of flu will be the most dominate that flu season. If the researchers correctly identify the upcoming flu strain, the vaccine will be more effective. The benefit of each year’s vaccine typically varies between 30 and 70 percent in effectiveness, according to Web MD. The flu vaccine is less effective in the elderly, children, and individuals with a lowered immune system.

Last year, the 2012-2013 flu vaccine had about a 50 percent effectiveness rate, according to a 2013 study of 2,697 adults and children conducted by the CDC. In the people studied, 1,115 of the people tested positive for one of the flu viruses from last year. 32 percent of these individuals had received the flu vaccine. According to the CDC, the effectiveness rate of the 2012-2013 flu vaccine was 58 percent for persons between the ages of 6 months and 17 years, 46 percent for adults aged 18 to 49 years, 50 percent for individuals aged between 50 and 64 years, and only 9 percent effective for adults older than 65 years of age.

The flu vaccine also cannot protect against vicious cold viruses. Some versions of cold viruses can have flu-like symptoms that last for a week or more, leading to other complications like pneumonia, bronchitis, ear infections, and respiratory infections, according to data from the New York Times.

Risks of the Flu Vaccine

The trouble with the flu vaccine is that when most people receive the vaccine, they feel like they will be 100 percent protected against the illness. However, as the CDC data from 2012-2013 shows, in most cases, patients have about a 60 percent chance for protection against the flu from the vaccine. A false sense of protection may actually increase the chances that a person gets the flu. For example, a person who believes they are protected from illness may not be as careful about eating immune-boosting foods, washing hands frequently, or staying away from infected persons. In addition to these potential side effects, there are also other questionable side effects from the vaccine itself, including muscle aches, dizziness, a sudden onset of the flu, and in extremely rare cases; guillain-barre syndrome (paralysis).

A 2009 study published in Clinical Infectious Diseases looked at 97 military patients who had the H1N1 virus. Of the group, 60 percent of the patients had received a flu vaccine in the previous 12 months. 40 percent of the patients with H1N1 were unvaccinated for any flu strains from the previous year.

A 2013 study from the University of Michigan School of Public Health showed that repeated flu vaccinations showed that although vaccinations reduced the risk of flu by about 56 percent, individuals who were previously vaccinated with the flu shot were 1.4 to 2.5 times more likely to contract H1N1 flu in the following seasons. However, this study did look at the 2010-2011 vaccination year, before the H1N1 flu vaccination was included in all flu shots.

The Effectiveness of the Flu Shot

Even if there are no other flu vaccine dangers, your best chance of protection against this year’s flu is only around 60-70 percent. If this year’s vaccine has the same rate of protection as last year, then your chances of protection are closer to 50 percent. Even if you decide to get the flu shot, you should still take additional measures to protect your health from flu viruses this year.

Natural Remedies for Colds and Flu

Taking the above steps will help prevent colds from developing this year. However, what happens if you do happen to get a cold or flu virus? Luckily, there are several science-backed natural treatment options that will help stop cold and flu symptoms in their tracks. These remedies include:

Spirulina

According to the University of Maryland, spirulina is effective at killing the flu virus in test tubes. However, the algae have not been tested with human trials. However, there is enough evidence to suggest that supplementation with spirulina when the signs of a cold or the flu strike will help reduce your symptoms.

Peppermint

According to the University of Maryland, peppermint is an effective treatment for colds and the flu. Peppermint contains menthol, which works as a decongestant. It also works as an expectorant, working to clear away mucous faster. Peppermint is available in tea form, which also helps warm the body and ensure cold-sufferers are getting enough liquids in their diet.

Elderberry

According to a 2001 study conducted by the Hadassah Medical Organization in Israel, taking the elderberry extract Sambucol shortened the duration of flu symptoms in flu patients by 3 days. The extract was shown to be effective against 10 strains of the flu virus. Elderberry is also an immune-system stimulant, which works to fight of a variety of infections. According to the University of Maryland, pregnant and nursing women should not take elderberry or Sambucol.

Chicken Soup

Chicken soup is the classic cold and flu remedy, and for good reason. Chicken soup is full of immune-boosting ingredients, like chicken broth, vegetables, and in some cases, garlic. The heat from the soup is also effective at opening up nasal passages and preventing stuffy noses, according to Web MD.

Sleep

Sleep is an old-fashioned remedy for colds, but according to Web MD, it is still an important one. Plenty of rest will help your body’s immune system function at top capacity. If you want to fight off your cold faster, try to avoid strenuous activity and avoid stressful situations. Consider taking a day off from work, or skipping extra evening activities until you feel better.

Keep Warm

A warmer body will help fight off infection. That is why fevers occur with some infections. Heat is the body’s natural defense against invading pathogens. You can help your body along by keeping warm when you are facing a cold or flu virus. Stay inside, and keep bundled, when possible. Socks and hats can help keep your extremities warm while you are sick. Avoid venturing out into the cold when you are sick.

Preventing the Flu in 2013-2014

There are a variety of natural ways to prevent and treat the flu that are just as effective, and possible more so, than the flu vaccine. Although the flu vaccine may be a viable option for some individuals, there are risks involved, and the effectiveness of the vaccine varies. By protecting your immune system before signs of a cold and flu virus appear, you can significantly reduce your chances of developing the illness.

As with many illnesses, the best treatment methods include a healthy diet, regular exercise, supplementing with the right vitamins and minerals, and old-fashioned hand washing. Following these steps will help you fight off any cold and flu viruses that you run across this year.

Sources


http://health.nytimes.com/health/guides/disease/common-cold/print.html

http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/herb/elderberry

http://www.webmd.com/vaccines/how-effective-is-flu-vaccine

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