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All in all, the news is generally good about H1N1 (swine) flu. We’ve got both a vaccine to prevent it and an antiviral prescription medicine to treat it. Epidemiologists have concluded that if you had the “regular” flu last spring, you actually have some protection from this year’s epidemic of both regular and H1N1 flu. The odds are in your favor that you won’t have two bad flu years in a row.
Since all flu strains are airborne viruses, spread by the invisible droplets people shower you with when they cough and sneeze, avoid the immediate vicinity of both coughers and sneezers. One reason elementary school teachers get frequent colds is their moist and drippy little children lovingly cough right in their faces. If you’re at a movie and the person behind you is coughing mightily, just move away. If you can avoid crowded spaces, like buses and elevators, this too might help.
Viruses are also spread from surfaces, including skin, health club equipment, remote controls, and computer keyboards. If you see someone covering her mouth with her hand when she coughs, it’s best not to shake that hand or use her keyboard, remote, or StairMaster and then inadvertently rub your nose or your eyes with your own hand. This is how the flu virus spreads. And when you yourself cough, remember to do so into the crook of your arm rather than into your hand. Interestingly, billboards throughout Toronto are teaching their citizenry this correct coughing technique.
If you want to boost the status of your immune system, there are two supplements you can take throughout the flu season.
• The first is Host Defense, an extraordinarily popular and effective blend of immune stimulant mushrooms. Clinical mycology is the study of the medical benefits of mushrooms, which have been used for more than 5,000 years to prevent and treat disease. Weighty textbooks and medical journals are devoted to this topic. Host Defense, formulated by well-known mycologist Paul Stamets, is a blend of about 15 immune-boosting mushrooms. You simply take one capsule twice daily for the rest of the flu season.
• In addition, take vitamin D. Ideally, you want blood levels of around 40-60 ng/ml (nanograms per milliliter).You could ask your doctor to measure your level, but it’s not necessary. The days are getting shorter here in the northern hemisphere and I haven’t seen any sunlight for a week, so it’s safe to assume your vitamin D is low. We now know that low levels of vitamin D affect your immune system’s ability to fight anything–from viruses to cancer–so just take 2,000 IU of D every day. There’s no danger of overdose. A good product is Iso D3 .
If you feel you’re coming down with any viral respiratory infection, I suggest starting ViraClear EPs 7630 , a homeopathic remedy recently licensed in the US from one of Europe’s largest nutritional and herbal companies. EPs 7630 is obtained from the roots of the South African pelargonium sidoides plant and in a post-marketing survey of more than 9,000 patients was shown to reduce the severity and duration of a wide variety of viral respiratory illnesses. One published study of 103 patients showed significant improvement of symptoms using EPs 7360 when compared to placebo.
If you’re getting the flu (either type), consider the prescription antiviral drug Tamiflu. If you think you’re coming down with the flu, have your doctor phone in a Tamiflu prescription ASAP. Tamiflu is effective only when started at the very onset of symptoms, ideally within the first 24 to 36 hours. Remember, flu symptoms are much more systemic than cold symptoms, meaning you feel them bodywide. With a cold, everything is rather superficial: runny nose, sneezing, scratchy throat, cough. But you can function with a cold. With flu, you start feeling a little bad in the morning and by evening you feel like you’ve been hit by a train. There are respiratory symptoms (worse than a cold), but also fever, muscle aches, brain fog, and tremendous fatigue. This is the flu.
If we have an epidemic here in Chicago, WholeHealth Chicago patients shouldn’t bother making an office appointment to see me. You’ll just infect everybody in the waiting room. Instead, have your pharmacy contact us for a Tamiflu prescription. You’ll get ten capsules and you’ll take two daily for five days. Tamiflu won’t cure you overnight but it will shorten the duration of your flu and reduce the severity of symptoms.
If you’re the well one but some family members have the flu, taking one Tamiflu capsule daily for ten days will lessen your chances of getting the infection yourself.
And do remember last week’s Health Tip about immunization. If you’re in one of the higher risk groups for either flu, get yourself immunized. I did, and lived to write this morning’s Health Tip.
David Edelberg, MD