The Dreaded Flu

Flu-season-BCIt’s that time of year again: Flu Season! Technically Flu season is from October to May, with the peak coming in January or February. The question is, because so many people are getting sick, do I get vaccinated? The answer is completely up to you. I pride myself in trying not to push my personal ideals onto people. I will simply educate you on arguments for both sides, and let you make the decision.

Simply put, you can get the flu after receiving the vaccine (for various reasons). And you can also get the flu twice in the same season regardless if you have had the vaccine or not. Confused?  There are several viruses and many different strains which can cause the flu. The vaccine only contains the 3 most prominent strains of Influenza predicted for the year. You can get the flu, and then turn around and get the flu again if it is a different strain you were exposed to than before.

First things first! The common cold and the flu are both caused by viruses! DO NOT go to your doctor and ask for antibiotics thinking they will prevent the flu. The overuse of antibiotics contributes to resistant strains of bacteria such as MRSA and VRSA and VRE. The most efficient way to prevent a viral infection is to take preventative measures, which we will discuss later on.

However, if yovirusu happen to get the flu virus, let your body fight it off. Antibiotics will not help, and the flu shot definitely will not help you. It takes one to two weeks to develop antibodies after recieving the vaccine, so you have already come down with the flu, it does you no good.  Also, just because you have the flu does not mean you should go to the emergency room. There is nothing they can do, unless you are severely dehydrated.  Your presence in the emergency room causes problems. It exposes patients who are already in the hospital and people who work there as well as their families to the flu. It also increases the waiting time for people who actually need emergency care.

Okay, here are facts on receiving a flu shot.

Pros

  • The CDC states that the flu shot is 62% effective.
  • A well-known flu vaccine systematic review, of over 50 studies, states that vaccines have a modest effect in reducing influenza symptoms and working days lost.
  • Being vaccinated can also protect against other complications caused from the Influenza virus, such as ear infections, pneumonia in elderly, chronic respiratory disease and bronchiolitis in children.
  • In 18/22 of the past years, the CDC states that they have correctly matched the predominant strains of the flu to the vaccines which they made that year.
  • People who are at risk, the young and the old have weaker immune systems and can develop more serious illnesses such as pneumonia if they catch the flu.

Cons

  • 60% effective is not very good, especially since there is a chance to catch the flu from the vaccine, and could potentially even die from.
  • The meta-analysis which the CDC uses to support use of the vaccine did not include the study which showed the vaccine was only 60% effective. If they would have included it, it would lower what little evidence exists for supporting the flu shot.
  • Unless you are immune-compromised, a child or older, you could encounter and fight off the virus without getting it. Elderly and children are most prone to the flu.
  • Unless you receive the flu shot weeks before you get sick, it will not help because it takes time to develop antibodies to the virus.
  • In that Influenza systematic review, the authors stated no evidence which the vaccine prevents transmission of the Influenza virus from person to person.  If you receive the flu shot, and are exposed to the flu, you could potentially transmit it to people without being sick yourself.
  • 1 in 1 million cases develop a serious nervous system disease GBS (Guellian Barre Syndrome) which can lead to paralysis and/or death.
  • Dr. Mercola, who takes an active stand against vaccines, warns that all vaccines weaken your immune system and leave you vulnerable to disease.
    • He also has research which explains all the chemical preservatives found in vaccines, including mercury derivatives.

I will not get into the debate on whether vaccines themselves are safe. That topic is for another day and blog post.

wash-handsPreventative measures

  • Biggest preventative measure is washing your hands regularly. Especially when around people and using normal hand soap (no antibacterial soap!). Use hand sanitizer as alternative.
  • Getting plenty of rest and exercise especially during the winter months.  It is beneficial to exercise at least 30 minutes 3 times a week and depending on your needs, 7-8 hours of sleep.
  • Managing stress is also huge, because cortisol (a stress hormone in the body) can depress the immune system, leaving you vulnerable.  Enjoy any hobbies or find a new one.  At least, make time for yourself to relax, think and unwind.
  • Optimizing Vitamin D levels. During winter months, you can take at least 3000 IU a day.  See Joseph Mercola’s website for the best vitamin D information.
  • Eating good foods keeps your immune system working properly.  Green teas, garlic, mushrooms and vegetables are a few of the many!
  • Having healthy digestive tract is crucial, 80% of your immune system is located in your intestines! Best way to do this is to eat sufficient fiber, vegetables, and by promoting good gut bacteria by taking a probiotic.

Symptom management

  • A fever is a good thing! It helps you fight off the infection. Taking aspirin or Tylenol can actually be preventing your body from fighting off the flu virus and delaying recovery time. 100 -104 degrees is not a high fever.  105 is!
  • Stay hydrated! Most American’s are dehydrated anyway, vomiting and diarrhea only makes it worse.  For normal daily function you need at least half your body weight in oz. of pure water. If you have the flu, wateryou need even more than that!
  • I love taking Oscillococcium. It’s available at your local health foods store. Recently, I have seen it available at Walgreens. Have it available because it best works when you first notice symptoms.
  • Colloidal silver is also very beneficial. In addition to the sublingual liquid, They also have a spray for your throat as well.
  • The supplements vitamin C and  oregano oil have antiviral properties and help boost the immune system.
  • Zinc at the first sign of a cold or flu can cut down sick time by up to a day.
  • Elderberry and antiviral properties and can reduce symptoms. You can get this as Elderberry tea or in an oral form from the health foods store.  I have actually seen it at drug stores now.
  • I recommend Theraflu tea bags or powder. They have a lemon and honey flavor, which works really well.
  • Chicken broth has scientifically been shown to boost the immune system and lower symptoms of the flu and cold.
  • Only take a decongestant or something like this if you absolutely have to (like you have a job interview or important work meeting).  I have a problem with taking drugs like this because they interfere with your own immune system. Note, if you have high blood pressure be careful, an effect of decongestants is increased blood pressure.
  • The Neti pot is a good alternative for decongestants.

Something to remember

  • If you are sick, do everybody a favor and stay home. You are contagious 1 day before you know you are sick and up to 5-7 days after you fight it off.  Staying home prevents transmission and the rest will help you fight it off quicker.

Although the information contained in here is backed by published research and safe, please seek advice from your primary care provider before following my recommendations.

Sources:

http://www.cnn.com/2013/01/10/health/flu-vaccine-effectiveness/index.html

http://www.cnn.com/2013/01/09/health/us-flu-season/index.html

http://www.cdc.gov/flu/weekly/usmap.htm

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Influenza

Jefferson, et al. Vaccines for preventing influenza in healthy adults (review). 2010. Cochrane Library.

http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2010/04/08/more-proof-flu-shots-dont-work.aspx

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