This year’s flu season may be one for the books. Every part of the continental United States is showing widespread influenza activity. Since the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention began tracking the season on Oct. 1, about 60,000 samples have tested positive for the virus in laboratories across the country.
Blame one strain: influenza A and its subtype H3N2, which tends to create more serious symptoms and decrease vaccine effectiveness, the CDC reports. More than 20 flu-related deaths have been reported since October, including previously healthy people.
Flu prevention measures
It is not too late to get an influenza vaccine, as there are more than 12 weeks left in the flu season. Most health insurance plans cover it, too.
Other ways to help prevent an influenza infection include:
- Frequent hand washing or using hand sanitizer
- Avoiding touching commonly used surfaces, and disinfecting them regularly
- Avoiding touching your eyes, nose or mouth with your bare hands
- Eating well, staying hydrated and getting plenty of rest to avoid taxing your immune system
Flu prescription medications
Prescription remedies like Oseltamivir (Tamiflu), zanamivir nasal inhaler (Relenza) and, in extreme cases, intravenous peraivir (Rapivab), taken within 48 hours of symptom onset, can lessen symptoms. They can also be taken as a preventive measure for up to six weeks. See your primary care doctor for recommendations.
If you’re interested in more natural remedies, there are plenty that have worked for generations. While there’s no scientific evidence they cure flu, they can make you feel better – and if grandma swears by a remedy, it certainly can’t hurt.
Honey and garlic
Mix honey and minced raw garlic. Both contain natural antiviral compounds. Garlic capsules are a good alternative.
Bone broth and soup
These soothing remedies are a tasty source of protein, minerals and nose-clearing steam. The collagen and glutamine in bone broth are said to support the immune system and promote gut healing. Instead of simmering bones for up to 20 hours, you can now buy it in supermarkets.
Many people swear by homemade elderberry syrup as a natural cough syrup and anti-inflammatory. Buy the dried berries online. Stir them in a pot with some water, minced ginger, a dash of cinnamon and cloves and bring the mixture to a boil. Cover and simmer until the liquid is half its volume, stirring occasionally. Add honey to taste when the syrup is almost cool (to preserve its medicinal benefits).
Many studies show that Vitamin C can reduce the severity of cold and flu symptoms. Take up to 2,000 mg. a day with plenty of water.
Oil of oregano – yes, the spice used in Italian food – contains plant chemicals that might quiet a cough and possibly fight bacteria and viruses.
Lemon juice or apple cider vinegar
Squeeze a lemon or add a spoonful of ACV into a glass of warm water. Add a slice of ginger and some honey or maple syrup if you like. This acidic drink can help cut throat mucus and may ease respiratory conditions.
Drink your water
We’ll say it again: it’s always a good idea to stay hydrated but because water helps cleanse the body, it aids the healing process.
Feeling flu-ish? Call your primary care practitioner for advice, or get more information on our website.