Now that we’re in the middle of winter, it seems like everywhere I go there is someone sniffling or sneezing or coughing! A few weeks ago, I was struck down for ten days fighting the flu. This got me thinking about flu vaccines and whether there was a more organic way to fight off illness when it seems like everyone is exposed to more virulent germs and flu.
Personally, I am unconvinced about the flu vaccine. I have friends who have never gotten a flu shot yet never get sick, while some friends get the vaccine and still get the flu! The U.S. Center for Disease Control says the two most important factors are the characteristics of a person and the similarity between the type of flu vaccine and the flu virus circulating in the community. There are different flu viruses, and making a correct “match” between vaccine and virus is difficult and important is determining the effectiveness of the vaccine. Age and health are also vital as children and the elderly, alongside those with weakened immune systems, are most at risk for catching the flu. Depending on the study you read, you get a different answer to question of whether or not you should get a flu vaccine, and getting one is no guarantee.
Let’s say you got the flu. Now what? Taking antibiotics to cure yourself of flu is fruitless, as flu is a virus not a bacterium. My doctor instead prescribed me an antibiotic in case of secondary infections, as a precaution.
It is so important to stay hydrated, keep warm, and stay home. The last point proves to be the most difficult. On average, flus last for a week so make sure you give yourself plenty of time to fully recover. The flu is contagious and easily spreads among people so staying home is as much about your own recovery as it is about protecting others.
Over-the-counter medications are available at most pharmacies along with throat numbing sprays and lozenges. Steam can also help so fill a sink or bowl with hot water and breathe deeply in through your nose and exhale through your mouth. Gargling salt water can help ease a sore throat as well. Simply stir a teaspoon of salt into a glass of water and pop it in the microwave for a minute or two, and you’re good to go. Also if you must go outside, wrap up well. Even if it seems like a mild day, wear a scarf, hat and gloves.
We have all heard the old wives tale about chicken soup, and while soup is not a guarantee, it definitely helps. Chicken soup is packed with nutrients, and easily purchased at your local grocery store. Homemade soup is ideal (less preservatives and sodium); however, who really feels like cooking while they’re sick. If, on the other hand, a family member is sick, try this recipe by Baker by Nature for a hearty, homemade, chicken noodle soup.
Public transportation is a breeding ground for viruses this time of year so if you’re taking a plane, bus, or tube this winter, make sure you try to avoid close contact with other passengers. Especially on planes, it’s crucial to stay hydrated, wash your hands, and avoid alcohol as that lowers your immune system. You can also take multivitamins, and I’ll have another article on multivitamins coming up later this month!
Flus are just a part of winter, but hopefully with these tips it won’t be a big part of your winter! Remember – stay warm, stay home, and stay healthy!