Last week Monday I sat at my desk at work and looked around. The office was practically empty. Where was everyone? Was the building evacuated and I didn’t know?? I found out that they were all taken by the season. No, not the season that just ended, the flu season. Yes, flu season is here again: bigger, badder and boundless! This post will discuss how the flu is contracted, how to treat it and how to naturally prevent you from getting the influenza virus.
Influenza a.k.a. The Flu
Personally, I’ve had the flu twice in my life and both times occurred last year. To be honest, before I caught the flu the first time, I didn’t understand it. I thought the flu was like catching a cold but a little more severe. Boy was I wrong, it was SO much worse! But what is the flu? How do you know if you have the flu and not the common cold?
The flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses types A and B. These viruses spread in people and are the reason for the seasonal flu epidemics we have each year. The flu can be mild to severe and has resulted in hospitalization and even death, yes that’s right, death. This is not something to be taken lightly especially by people who have certain health issues (asthma, heart disease, blood disorders etc) that increase their risk of flu complications including pneumonia, bronchitis or sinus infections.
How do you know you have the flu? Unlike a cold, the flu usually comes on suddenly. You may experience symptoms such as:
- Sore throat
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Muscle or body aches
Recovery times range from a few days to less than two weeks, but it can be much longer if you develop complications. The flu can also make chronic health problems worse. For example, asthmatics (like myself) may experience asthma attacks while they have the flu. I was fortunate that the flu did not trigger any attacks for me but this can be a major issue, especially for young children or older ones. These, including women who are pregnant (in my previous article, I discuss natural remedies for pregnant women,) are at high risk for complications from the flu. Due to their physical/medical restrictions, they would highly benefit from the following more natural ways for preventing and treating the flu.
Natural Ways To Prevent The Flu
I am always looking for natural alternatives to help people and have come across the following tips to prevent being infected by the flu:
- Drinking black or green tea with lemon and honey stimulates the hair follicles in the nose causing germs to move more efficiently. The lemon thins mucus and honey is antibacterial.
- Include protein in your diet to boost the immune system. Fish, eggs, nuts and yogurt have plenty of protein.
- Drink plenty of water to flush toxins out through the lymph system.
- Exercise also strengthens your immune system.
- Sweating using a dry sauna also helps get rid of toxins and germs.
- Juicing is a healthy and delicious way to boost your immune system as well. You can include a variety of fruits and vegetables to help you including kale, broccoli, apple, arugula, parsley, cucumber, carrots, garlic and mint.
- There is a delicious Cold and Flu Turmeric Tonic by Meghan Telpner that I was to share with you. It combines vitamin C-rich citrus with immune modulating herbs to really boost your immune system and includes turmeric root, ginger, orange and lemon. Check out the free recipe and directions.
Influenza Viruses Hang Out Spots
Another tip is to be aware of places that may have influenza viruses in abundance and use other natural ways to protect yourself:
- So yes, I encouraged you earlier to exercise. Now I am telling you to be cautious of gyms. That is because gyms are saturated with germs from sweaty towels, dirty sneakers and other things that you don’t want to think of. Instead of sitting directly on the gym’s mat or bench, place a clean towel on it. Wipe down (before and after) any equipment that you will touch such as weights or handle bars on cycles and treadmills with antibacterial wipes.
- Remember the case of the missing coworkers I started this article with? The workplace (university, school, clubs, other places you congregate regularly) is filled with viruses from the constant flow of people in and out. Do you work someplace where you are constantly meeting new people and have to shake their hands? Your chances of obtaining the flu has drastically risen.
- You can use hand sanitizer (store bought or a few drops of lavender essential oil) to clean your hands periodically throughout the day.
There are many things that we can do to prevent ourselves from catching the flu but sometimes we still succumb to the virus. What are some natural ways to treat the flu once you have it?
Natural Virus, Natural Remedies
Natural remedies to help you relieve flu symptoms and overcome the virus include:
Vitamin C (1,000 mg 3–4x daily) – helps with immune system function and boosts white blood cells. You can find vitamin C in whole fruits and vegetables.
Vitamin D (2,000 IU daily) – is produced in the body by the sun. It can also be found in fatty fish (such as salmon, tuna, and mackerel) and fish liver oils. Low vitamin D levels in your body leads to higher rates of cold, flu and respiratory infections.
Echinacea (1,000 mg 2–3x daily) – helps your body fight off infections. This herb effectively treats respiratory tract infections in the short- and long-term, acts as an anti-inflammatory, which reduces bronchial symptoms of cold and flu.
Elderberry (10 mL daily) – this herb can deactivate the flu virus, relieve sinus pain and naturally boost immunity.
Oregano Oil (500 mg 2x daily) – has an antiviral effect.
Zinc (50–100 mg daily) – supports immune function and has an antiviral effect.
Brewer’s Yeast – contains B vitamins and protein and is used for cold, flu and other respiratory tract infections. It works by stimulating intestinal enzymes and improves immune response to viruses that infect the lungs.
Peppermint and frankincense essential oil – can naturally support the immune system.
Clove oil – protects the body against infection and can speed recovery from the flu virus.
Tea tree oil – has an antiviral effect and eases congestion.
Lemon oil – has an antiviral effect, boosts the immune system and clears mucus and phlegm.
Thyme oil – acts as a congestion drainer.
These restore the beneficial bacteria in your body which can help boost your immune system.
Remember, if you have the flu, eat foods that are easy to digest (broths and soups,) stay hydrated, and make herbal teas with lemon, honey, cinnamon or honey and ginger.
I found a lot of these natural remedies here by Dr. Axe. He also includes different natural recipes to help you if you are suffering with the flu. Besides the natural remedies listed above, there are other tips to help counter the flu.
Influenza Prevention – Avoid Catching And Spreading
There are popular alternatives to prevent the flu. Doctors and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend getting vaccinated every year. The flu vaccination may reduce flu illnesses, doctors’ visits, hospitalization, and missed work (I can attest to that!) and school due to the flu.
Those high risk persons discussed earlier that get flu symptoms should be treated with antiviral drugs as soon as possible. These can make illness less severe, reduce flu complications and lessen the time you are sick. As soon as you begin to feel flu symptoms, start taking lozenges with zinc or the other healthy aids listed to build up your immune system.
The CDC also made some recommendations for avoiding spreading the virus once you have it:
- Stay at home when you’re sick.
- Stay at home if you’ve been exposed to a sick family or household member.
- Cover your coughs and sneezes with a tissue.
- Wash your hands or use hand sanitizer.
- Cover your nose or mouth with a mask or cloth if you are sick and have to be around others at a community gathering of people.
Influenza viruses spread mainly through small droplets which are expelled into the air when people infected with the flu cough, sneeze or talk. These infectious droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby, attaching to the cells in their nasal passages and throat. They are now infected and can infect others.
Following these procedures can help prevent and stop the spread of flu.
Be Flu-ent In Flu Prevention!
I initially planned to write on another topic for this article. However, as I continue to lose my family, friends and coworkers to this influenza, I wanted to give practical suggestions to help anyone battle this virus; how to get well sooner and how to prevent you from infecting others. For those who do not have the flu but are surrounded by persons that do, safeguard yourselves. Please let us be diligent about protecting ourselves and others. The flu is serious and have already taken too many lives in this new year. Let’s educate and support each other through this flu season. Any other flu prevention and treatment tips you want to share? Leave them in the comments below!
Remember, quitting isn’t always a bad thing!