Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Flu and Cold Season are Once Again upon Us

It is almost impossible to differentiate cold from flu (also known as influenza). Sore throat, cough, and fever are symptoms common to both conditions. Practically speaking, there is no need to distinguish them, because treatment is the same: stay in bed if you feel tired; take aspirin (not for kids younger then 5 years old) or acetaminophen, if fever is higher then 102; drink plenty of water to prevent dehydration. People rarely die from flu, even though on day two and three you will probably feel that you will. People die from complications. For that reason the most vulnerable people, that is, the very old, very young, immune compromised patients and those with several chronic conditions, should seek medical supervision to prevent complications.

A few steps to prevent cold/flu

1. “Wash your hands!” This is the best sign I ever saw in public bathrooms. According to research, the best bacterium removers are:

  • Chlorhexidine gluconate (CHG) sold under name brands such as PrimaKare or Bactoshield, and triclosan, sold as Prevacare
  • Plain soap and water (without microbe-fighting chemicals)
  • Tap water alone

The best virus removers are:

  • Benzethonium chloride
  • Plain soap and water (without microbe-fighting chemicals)
  • Tap water alone.

Commercial antimicrobial soaps have fallen out of favor because they do not do the job as advertised.

2. Eat garlic and onion daily. Both contain allicin, a substance that will kill bugs, viruses and fungus. Allicin in high doses is stronger than prescription antibiotics and there is no resistance to allicin. Tip: eat raw garlic or onion with your food; if they taken on an empty stomach they may cause burning and stomach irritation.

3. If you are surrounded by sneezing and coughing people, use a NETI POT twice per day physically to clean the bugs out of your nose.

4. If you are coming down with a cold or the flu and can hardly get out of bed, just stay there for 1 or 2 days.

5. Make green tea with lemon and ginger and drink one cup every 3 hours. Lemon zest has the essential oil Lemolin; you can see it as a thin film on the surface of your tea. This oil has strong anti-bacterial, anti-viral and anti-fungal properties. Ginger is a “hot” Chinese root that causes vasodilation and will deliver the Lemolin into every cell of your body, where it will kill the invaders.

6. Use a chest rub or Chinese “Tiger Balm” to prevent colds from going down to your lower respiratory tract. Apply on your chest, throat, temples and behind your ears. This will improve blood circulation and will decrease congestion. These remedies contain menthol. Tip: wash your hands immediately after application. Menthol in the nose or eyes causes severe irritation.

7. Zink 30 mg/day. Higher doses may cause nausea.

8. Take supplements of vitamin D. Research shows that people deficient in vitamin D are prone to viral infections. Read here.

Now a few words about vaccination for flu. According to the CDC (Center for Disease Control), “each vaccine contains three influenza viruses-one A (H3N2) virus, one A (H1N1) virus, and one B virus. The viruses in the vaccine change each year based on international surveillance and scientists' estimations about which types and strains of viruses will circulate in a given year. We can speculate how good our scientists at estimation, but I know for sure that viruses mutate so fast that if you have one this week you may have his “brother” next week, and his “sister” next month. They have different genetic structures and require different immune responses. That is why some people could get sick several times during a year with very similar viruses. I recommend flu shots only for very old, sick people with several chronic conditions and immune compromised (cancer, HIV) patients.

WebMD states on October 7th, 2008: “Don't use over-the-counter pediatric cough and cold drugs in kids younger than 4”. If it is not good for kids, it can not be all that good for you either! Avoid these drugs.

As a naturopathic doctor I prescribe herbal medications. Some of them should be taken before cold and flu season starts, because they may need 2-3 weeks before you may see their effect: Eleuterococcus senticosus is an adaptogen; it will calm down an over-stimulated immune system and stimulate a weak one. Astragalus membranaceous will increase production of immune cells. Echinacea angustifolia andEchinacea purpurea will increase levels of interferon. Two other herbs that can be useful during the infection because their anti-bacterial or anti-viral properties are: Mahonia aquifolium andMelissa officinalis

Sometimes I do cupping in the office. This treatment stimulates the immune system and improves blood circulation to the lungs. It should be done 3-4 times after the first onset of a cold or flu to prevent pneumonia.

Patient’s back with cups and Patient’s back after cupping

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