Steps You Can Take to Prevent the Flu Naturally
You’ve seen the news reports: come now for your flu shots, the CDC is now recommending anyone over 6 months of age receive the flu shot. In previous years the recommendation was only the very young, the very old, those with chronic medical conditions, pregnant women, nursing home residents, and health care workers (who can spread the virus) receive the shot—because there is a much greater likelihood of serious illness or death if they contract the flu.
Healthy young people are at less risk for these serious complications, but the flu could still mean a week or more out of work and the misery that goes with that: muscle aches, headaches, cough, fever, chills, and malaise. Sometimes it can take weeks before a person fully regains their energy after a flu. Furthermore, I occasionally see patients who’ve never been well since the flu; they can date the start of their chronic fatigue, asthma, or other condition to a bout with the flu many years earlier.
Reduce your risk
There are other ways, besides the flu vaccine, to reduce your risk of catching this infectious disease. The first are commonsense measures that you’ll see publicized everywhere. Be sure to eat sensibly, get enough sleep, have effective tools to deal with stress, be active and exercise, and probably most importantly, wash your hands frequently and for at least 20 seconds—enough time to get through humming a short song like Row Row Row Your Boat 2 times.
In addition to these recommendations, homeopathy has a long history of the use of nosodes (homeopathic remedies prepared from disease products*) to protect people during epidemics. The nosode used to protect against the flu is Influenzinum—a homeopathic preparation made from the influenza vaccine or viruses. Although there have been no definitive clinical trials to demonstrate the effectiveness or safety, reports from homeopaths who’ve used Influenzinum over the years have been good. When medical students, staff and personnel at Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine all took the homeopathic nosode “Influenzinum” it was noticed there was a lower incidence of flu among this group. However, there seemed to be about 10% of people who tried this that had some sort of uncomfortable reaction, usually flu-like symptoms which most often lasted for a few hours to two days.
Another method of using homeopathy to prevent epidemic disease like the flu, has been called “genus epidemicus” prescribing. This method requires the homeopathic practitioner to treat a number of cases of the flu in a given locality and a given year. The cases are considered together as a whole, and the best remedy for the most important characteristic symptoms of the cases is determined. If this remedy proves efficacious in treating a majority of sick individuals during the epidemic, then it can be tried preventatively on people who have not yet come down with the disease. For example; the genus epidemicus for the flu one year seemed to be Nux vomica; it worked wonderfully to treat—as well as prevent the flu for those patients who took it prophylactically.
Dealing with the flu
Once a person comes down with the flu, the best thing to do is to carefully take the case and prescribe the homeopathic remedy that best fits that patient’s disease. If there is no skilled homeopathic practitioner available, you might consider using Oscillococcinum®, available in most natural food stores. Studies have shown that it can reduce the length and severity of the flu. Take as directed on the package, and remember that in order to get these good results, it is important to begin the medicine at the first sign of the flu.
Finally, if you do come down with the flu, try to limit other’s exposure to the illness. Wash your hands frequently, cover your mouth and nose completely when you cough and sneeze, preferably with a tissue, and then wash your hands afterwards. And don’t “be a hero”—stay home from work or school, until all the symptoms are gone.
Is it a cold or the flu? What’s the difference?
The flu tends to come on more suddenly than a cold, and the symptoms are more extreme. Fever and chills, muscle aches and pains, severe headaches, exhaustion, painful dry coughs, and chest pain are very prominent with the flu. While those with a cold feel unwell and may have a slight headache and mild muscle aches, they are usually able to go about their normal routine with some difficulty. Those with the flu, however, often cannot even get out of bed, feeling as though they’ve been “hit by a truck.” Flu sufferers may have a runny nose, but they rarely have the kind of intense nasal congestion and stopped up nose that is typical of a head cold. While a cold usually runs its course within a week, the flu may last up to two weeks with additional time for recuperation. In the Northern Hemisphere, the flu occurs almost exclusively during the fall and winter months, whereas colds occur year-round.
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