A Natural Approach to the Flu
How do I know if I have the flu?
The flu (influenza) is caused by a viral infection. If you become infected with the influenza virus you will likely develop a fever (usually greater than 100°F), cough, sore throat, muscle soreness, and fatigue. Your doctor can do further testing to determine what type of flu is causing your symptoms. However many times a doctor will not need to do testing to know that you have the flu.
What is the flu shot and how does it work?
The flu shot is a vaccine against the latest strains of influenza. The flu shot protects the body against several different types of influenza, including influenza A and B, by stimulating the production of antibodies in the body. These antibodies help your body fight off the flu when you are exposed to it. Viruses can change and become more virulent as they are passed from person to person around the globe. This shift and change is the reason that new strains of viruses are added to each year’s influenza vaccine. The influenza vaccine contains the viruses most likely to be circulating in the United States during the winter months. Annual vaccination is recommended by the Centers of Disease Control (CDC) because immunity declines during the year after vaccination and because circulating strains of the influenza virus change from year to year.
How do I know if the flu shot is the right choice for me?
In general, those persons with chronic health conditions (such as asthma and diabetes) may be at greater risk for developing complications from an influenza infection and may choose to receive a flu vaccine. In addition, those persons who live or work with the very young or very old may also want to consider obtaining a flu vaccine to protect these vulnerable populations. The Centers of Disease Control (CDC) recommends that almost everyone receive a flu vaccine to decrease the spread of the flu virus and infection. At NaturoMedica we like to consider each person’s individual health needs. For example those with a compromised immune system or an autoimmune disease may not be a good candidate for the flu shot. However they may consider other therapies or habits to prevent the spread of the flu.
What if I decide against receiving the flu vaccine? Are there other things I can do to help keep me healthy during the cold and flu season?
Absolutely! Natural medicine has much to offer in the way of prevention and treatment of viral infections. There are many herbs and nutrients that boost the body’s natural immune defenses. Some herbs have shown potent antiviral activity. For those who have flu symptoms, the natural pharmacy can offer symptomatic relief of the sore throat, runny nose, and aching muscles that often accompany this seasonal illness. The following natural treatments are some of our favorite immune boosting and antiviral recommendations for the entire family. These products are at the top of the list because they are well tolerated and gentle enough for children. These same therapies have also been shown in scientific research to be effective immune support for adults as well.
- Elderberry: is a berry flavored medicine which has been shown to have antiviral effect against both influenza A and B. It also has immune boosting properties and can be taken to prevent infection.
- Probiotics: strains of “friendly” bacteria found in the colon that increase antibody (your body’s immune defense against viruses) production and help prevent respiratory tract infections. In particular, studies show that children who take probiotics get fewer and less severe respiratory tract infections and are at lower risk of developing flu-like symptoms.
- Medicinal mushrooms: have a long history of use in traditional Chinese medicine as an invigorating immune tonic and are currently studied for its immune boosting properties in cancer patients.
- Pelargonium sidoides: A South African a homeopathic remedy used to treat cough, sore throat, congestion, sinusitis, and other respiratory tract infections. This homeopathic remedy can shorten the duration of upper respiratory tract infections and reduce the severity of symptoms.
We suggest you stop by the clinic and pick up NaturoMedica’s Immune Support handout that details some of the best supplements available for the cold and flu season. This popular handout outlines general dosing recommendations for both adults and children. Our patients frequently stock up on these products to prevent an unwanted trip to the store when illness strikes.