Cold and Flu season stats
Over 200 different viruses cause influenza and influenza-like illness (fever, headaches, aches and pains, coughs, runny nose). Without doing lab testing, it is very difficult for doctors to determine the difference between the two. Both last for days and rarely lead to death or serious illness.
According to a recent Cochrane review, the flu vaccine might only be effective against Influenza A and B, which represents about 10% of all circulating viruses (Jefferson et al, 2013). The authors’ conclusion from that review was, “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.” (Jefferson et al., 2013).
Period of contagiousness
You may be able to pass on the flu to someone else before you know you are sick, as well as while you are sick. Most healthy adults may be able to infect others beginning 1 day before symptoms develop and up to 5 to 7 days after becoming sick. Some people, especially young children and people with weakened immune systems, might be able to infect others for an even longer time.
How flu spreads Most experts believe that flu viruses spread mainly by droplets made when people with the flu cough, sneeze or talk. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby. Less often, a person might also get flu by touching a surface or object that has flu virus on it and then touching their own mouth, eyes or possibly their nose.
What Can We Do?
There are many things we can do to help prevent illness throughout the winter season.
1)Eat fresh whole foods: Eating a variety of fresh whole foods including plenty of colourful fruits and vegetables is essential to proper immune function
2)Avoid refined sugars, trans fats and salt: These foods are known to weaken the immune system.
3)Increase your consumption of vitamin C containing foods: Vitamin C is known to boost immune function and help prevent cold and flus. Increase vitamin C containing foods such as: oranges, lemons, grapefruit, strawberries, raspberries, black currants, peppers, spring greens, brussel sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, etc.
4)Eat more garlic and onions: Garlic and onions both have anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties, helping the body to fight off any germs it may come into contact with. (Raw consumption provides a greater benefit than cooked)
5)Drink up: Ensuring you are adequately hydrated will help enhance your immune system. Aim for half your weight in fluid ounces. (ex. If you weigh 150lbs, you should consume 75oz. of water a day)
6)Sleep, Sleep, Sleep: Ensure you are getting around 8 hrs of sleep per night and you are sleeping soundly. Too little non-restorative sleep is known to weaken the immune system.
7)Exercise: Engage in at least 20 minutes of physical activity per day. Exercise helps to increase circulation and lympathic flow, both of which help boost the immune system.
8)Breathe: Practice deep breathing exercises to help manage stress. High stress, fear, and worry can weaken the immune system, making you more susceptible to infections.
9)Wash hands: Wash your hands frequently using warm water and a natural anti-bacterial soap to prevent the spread of infection.
10)Cover your Cough: Cough or sneeze into your sleeve to prevent spreading infection and avoid touching your nose, mouth, eyes until hands are washed.
In a Harvard study, they found that people who drank 5 cups a day of black tea for 2 weeks had 10 times more virus-fighting interferon in their blood than others who drank a placebo hot drink. The amino acid responsible for this immune boost, L-theanine, is abundant in both black and green tea—decaf versions have it, too.
Your optimal dose: Several cups daily. To get up to five times more antioxidants from your tea bags, bob them up and down while you brew.
Note: This information is not meant to replace the advice of a trained practitioner. In order to formulate a proper treatment plan, you should consult with your Naturopathic Doctor or other health care provider.
Center for Disease Control and Prevention. (2013). Seasonal Influenza: Key Facts about Influenza (Flu) & Flu Vaccine. http://www.cdc.gov/flu/keyfacts.htm
Hoffmann, D. (2003). Medical Herbalism: The Formulation and Preparation of Herbal Medicines. Healing Arts Press. Print.
Jefferson et al. (2013). Vaccines to prevent influenza in health adults. http://summaries.cochrane.org/CD001269/vaccines-to-prevent-influenza-in-healthy-adults.
Ontario Association of Naturopathic Doctors. (2013). Staying Healthy in Cold and Flu Season. http://www.oand.org/staying-healthy-in-cold-and-flu-season/
Public Health Agency of Canada. (Nov 2, 2013). Flu Watch: Influenza/ILI Activity (geographic spread). http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/fluwatch/13-14/w44_13/pdf/fw2013-44-eng.pdf
I am a Naturopathic Doctor and Doula providing care in the Kitchener-Waterloo area. I have a passion for helping people with their health issues and improving the birth experience for Moms, and their babies. I also have a life long love affair with soccer, curling, and the alto saxophone.