Commonsense things you can do to prevent colds/coughs/flu:
- Wash hands frequently, especially before eating and refrain from touching your face.
- Hydrate: drink filtered water equal to half your weight in ounces (120lb person = 60 oz) is your daily target.
- Eat a rainbow! Lots of colorful fruits and vegetables will protect you. They are rich in antioxidants that destroy free radicals responsible for weakening our immune systems.
- Avoid refined sugar and processed foods. Your blood shows evidence of a diminished immunity within 30 minutes of eating simple sugars like glucose, processed sugar, and fructose, and results in a significant reduction in your white blood cells’ abilities to kill germs for many hours. Conversely, keeping blood sugar levels steady has been shown to optimize immune function.
- Go outside for fresh air and daily exercise. Moderate exercise can boost macrophages, the kind of white blood cells that “consume” bacteria and viruses.
- Get enough sleep. Adequate sleep helps your white blood cells function optimally, while even mild sleep deprivation may increase inflammation in the body making us more vulnerable to viral infections.
- Keep stress to a minimum. Emotional stress lowers our defenses making us more susceptible to illness. Stress has been shown to lower our white blood cells’ abilities to kill germs and can contribute to inflammation that makes us feel sicker.
Immune boosters and prevention:
Here are several supplements and other ideas that can help to bolster the immune system. Make an appointment with one of our physicians to discuss a customized immune support Rx including specific dosage recommendations.
- Vitamin D3: Researchers have hypothesized that rates of illness increase during winter months because of widespread vitamin D deficiency. Supplementation with vitamin D3 during the cold and flu season can significantly lower rates of infection. Vitamin D3, among other things, increases the body’s production of cathelicidin, which is an antimicrobial. The Vitamin D Council recommends a maintenance dosage of 1000IU of Vitamin D3 for every 25 pounds of body weight, but a simple and inexpensive blood test allows us to customize the dose.
- Fish oil: While not shown to prevent cold and flu in particular, omega-3 essential fatty acids generally support a healthy intestinal tract and immune system and provide other long term benefits.
- Probiotics: Many studies have shown reductions in episodes of upper respiratory infections in those taking probiotics. These studies showed a drastic reduction in fever and upper respiratory symptoms in children who took probiotics.
- Vitamin C: Studies on vitamin C’s role in helping colds/flu have been mixed. However, it is indisputable that vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant.
- Zinc: Zinc is essential for white blood cells to function normally. Just 10-15mg of zinc per day can be key in warding off infection. Here are some good food sources of zinc.
- Oscillococcinum: A homeopathic medicine that not only treats, but may help to prevent, influenza infection. Safe for use at any age. Take contents of one small tube per week for cold and flu prevention. Can also be used if there is a known viral exposure: contents of one tube under the tongue immediately following the exposure!
- Nasal washes: One of the most preventive things you can do is to irrigate your and your children’s nasal passages at the end of every day, and after any exposure (at work, school, playgroups, on BART/buses/planes, etc.). It’s impossible to “overdo it.” In addition to regular hand washing, daily and frequent nasal washing is one of the most important things that you can do to protect against influenza and other viral infections. After a viral exposure, germs need to multiply in the nasal passages for at least 1-2 days before any symptoms develop. Nasal irrigation can wash away viral particles before they have the opportunity to take hold, and thereby prevent many infections from happening in the first place!
- Bone Broths: Consider drinking them and using them in your cooking for their rich (and easily absorbed) mineral content which supports gut health and overall immunity. Here’s a great resource and recipes for broth.
What can you do if your child catches a cold or the flu?
- The following are some homeopathic and herbal medicines we have discovered may help shorten the duration and severity of viral colds, coughs and flu. It’s important that these be taken as soon as symptoms are noted — we have found them to be the most effective when taken within 12-24 hours of the onset of symptoms. For convenience, most of these products are available at GetzWell – come in and check out our pharmacy!
Windbreaker: This Chinese herbal formulation by Kan Herbs, a local business, works fabulously for colds/flu and fever. They make additional tinctures which can be used along with Windbreaker, depending on your/your child’s symptoms. For your convenience we offer Windbreaker at GetzWell.
- Elderberry syrup: Elderberry has been found to prevent invasion by viruses and bacteria and also helps relieve cough. This study found that elderberry inhibited H1N1 infection in vitro. The study’s authors have stated that “the H1N1 inhibition activities of the elderberry flavonoids compare favorably to the known anti-influenza activities of Oseltamivir (Tamiflu) and Amantadine.”
- Umcka: Also known as Umckaloabo, this traditional African herb can significantly shorten the duration and severity of colds, bronchitis, sinusitis, and throat infections. Studies have shown it improves macrophage activity, kills bacteria and viruses, and aids in clearing mucous from the lungs. We carry a tasty version called VClear. It is also available as Umcka Syrup, manufactured by Nature’s Way.
- Oscillococcinum: This is marketed a homeopathic flu remedy but can be used at the onset of any cold or flu symptoms. We recommend the contents of 1 vial every 6-8 hours for 3 doses. It is safe for use at any age (ask us how to administer to your infant/small child!) and we carry it at GetzWell.
- Coldcalm: A combination of homeopathic medicines in a single product to help with cold symptoms. Like Oscillo, it is safe to use even in infancy.
- Astragalus: Astragalus membranaceus has been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine for thousands of years. It is often combined with other herbs in an effort to strengthen the body’s immune system. It is an adaptogen, meaning it helps the body to deal with all kinds of stresses and also has anti-viral, anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties.
- Vitamin C rich foods or supplementation with a Vitamin C product.
- Nasal irrigation: with a saline solution, Neti Pot, or Xlear nasal spray.
When should you or your child see the doctor?
If you or your child has developed flu symptoms it is best to stay home and rest, avoiding contact with others. You should seek medical attention for the following reasons:
- Fever for more than 3 days
- Excessive drowsiness or listlessness
- Irritability to the point of not being consoled in the usual ways
- Increased work of breathing
- Severe or persistent vomiting
- Dehydration (no urine for greater than 6-8 hours)
- If your child is in a high risk group (asthma, autoimmune or chronic illness, etc.)
We wish all of you a very healthy winter season!