Tag Archives: flu

Flu Season in Full Swing

fluseasonBy Jacquie Eubanks BSN, RN

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there is currently widespread or regional flu activity in every state in the U.S.  Youngsters and the elderly are particularly susceptible to the highly contagious H3N2 virus, this season’s predominant flu strain.  Children, whose immune systems are still developing, help to spread the virus through simple respiration, as they actually exhale more flu virus than adults do.  Seniors, who may have weakened immune systems, are more likely to come down with flu complications such as pneumonia.  Other at-risk susceptible people are those with underlying heart disease, those with compromised immune systems and those who are morbidly obese

The CDC recommends that everyone over 6 months of age get vaccinated against the flu each year, yet studies show that less than 50% of Americans do.  Although the vaccine is made from an inactivated virus and can’t transmit the infection, one of the persistent myths surrounding vaccination is the belief the vaccine will actually cause the flu.  Another reason may be that some think the flu is harmless when it can be quite serious, as flu complications are responsible for approximately 36,000 deaths each year. 

According to the CDC, how well a vaccine works at preventing the flu varies widely from season to season.  Two factors that play an important role in determining the likelihood of a flu vaccine providing protection include the age and health of the person receiving the vaccine and how well the vaccine is matched to the current strain of flu virus. 

If you do feel sick, how do you know whether you have a common cold or the more serious influenza?  Cold symptoms generally come on slowly and can include nasal symptoms such as stuffy or runny nose, sneezing, and sore throat, which may be accompanied by a headache, a hacking cough, and some general aches and pains.  The flu is likely to include the sudden onset of symptoms of fever, headache, muscle aches, joint pain, exhaustion, fatigue, a severe cough and may be accompanied by nasal symptoms as well.  A cold can make you feel miserable, but a bout with the flu will send you straight to bed. 

As we approach the peak of the 2014 flu season, good health habits may help to protect you and prevent the spread of the virus. 

Keep your body hydrated.   Staying hydrated helps to prevent drying of mucous membranes, preventing tiny cracks that allow viruses to enter.  Avoid touching your face, eyes, mouth and nose to reduce access for airborne viruses to get inside your system.  

Eat a diet rich in plant-based foods.  Fruits, vegetables, and whole grains are high in antioxidants and phytonutrients that are linked to enhanced immunity and faster healing. 

Keep your gut healthy with probiotics.  Beneficial microorganisms aid gut and intestinal tract health by keeping pathogens in check.  Probiotics from foods or through supplementation are believed to contribute to immune function, while aiding digestion and nutrient absorption. 

Exercise all year long.  Don’t let winter weather prevent you from exercising.  Moderate physical activity helps your body function optimally and keeps you healthier by strengthening the immune system. 

Supplement.  A multivitamin and mineral supplement that contains 100% of the recommended daily values of vitamins A, B6, B12, C and D, and minerals chromium, copper, folic acid, selenium, calcium and zinc will fill in nutritional gaps and may help to reduce the risk of infection. 

Wash, wash, wash your hands often.  And wash them properly by rubbing your hands together for at least 20 seconds  Any type of soap will do.  In the absence of soap and water, alcohol-based hand sanitizer can be used. 

Clean surfaces such as doorknobs, handles, keyboards, TV remotes, cell phones or any other frequently touched surface.  Germs can live for up to 8 hours on hard surfaces.  Detergents or chlorine, alcohol or peroxide based cleaners are thought to be effective against influenza viruses. 

Cover your nose and mouth when you sneeze.  Uncovered sneezes can send airborne viruses up to 12 feet away!  The best way to inhibit the spread of germs is to sneeze into a tissue and toss it in the trash.  When you sneeze into your hands, germs still escape and can land almost 4 feet away.  Sneezing into the inside of your elbow can spread germs up to 8 feet away.  In the absence of tissues, use your elbow, but be sure to completely cover your nose and mouth. 

Avoid contact with others.  This goes for both sick and healthy people.  Aside from medical attention when necessary, sick people need to stay at home until they are fever-free for 24 hours without the use of fever reducers.  Healthy people need to limit contact with sick people as much as possible within their own environments. 

If you do get the flu, bed rest is crucial to helping your immune system fight off the infection.  Adequate fluid intake is necessary to prevent dehydration.  In addition to water, try some warm, soothing liquids such as tea, broths and soups.  While you may not feel like eating, nutritious foods including protein, carbohydrates and healthy fats will support your immune system and provide the energy needed to fight the virus and help you to get better.   

ViraClear EPs 7630 (Original) by Integrative Therapeutics –  This homeopathic clinically proven extract helps to shorten the duration and reduce the severity of upper respiratory tract infections.  Also available in an alcohol-free, cherry flavored formula for children. 

Echinacea Certified Lyphoherb Freeze-Dried Extract by Ecological Formulas –  Active ingredients in this formula stimulate the immune system to combat bacteria and viruses that cause cold, flu and other infections. 

Zinc Lozenges by Douglas Laboratories – These pleasant tasting, natural orange flavored lozenges increase antioxidant activity and help fight infections by balancing the immune system’s response.   

Oscillococcinum by Boiron –  Developed in the 1930’s, this homeopathic remedy helps reduce the duration and severity of flu symptoms especially when taken at the first sign of illness. 

Healthy Airline Travel: Part I

TipsForHealthyAirlineTravelBy Jacquie Eubanks BSN, RN

It’s summertime and some of us are planning or starting our summer vacations. The goal of a vacation may be to feel better, relax and rejuvenate, go sightseeing, or catch up with friends and family, which can all be very exciting.  Whether you are taking a short flight to visit relatives or flying halfway around the world, it pays to be proactive, prepared and protected when it comes to health and safety. 

Unfortunately, many air travelers pick up unwanted souvenirs in the form of colds, flu, or gastric upset.  Many aspects of air travel increase the risk of illness.  These tips may help you avoid sickness while traveling or help you deal with an illness if you should get sick:

  • Protect your feet at security checkpoints.  Bare feet can easily pick up bacterial or fungal infections.   Wear socks while you go through security.
  • Wash and sanitize your hands often.  Touching germ riddled surfaces such as door handles, railings and faucets and then touching your face, mouth and eyes is an easy way to transmit infections. 
  • Once on the plane, disinfect the arm rests and tray table with antibacterial wipes.  If the passenger seated next to you is coughing, sneezing or obviously ill, ask if there are any other available seats.  Seat back pockets harbor lots of germs.  If you must use the seat back pocket, consider packing your in-flight necessities such as a magazine, book, headphones, gum or snacks in a gallon sized Ziploc bag and place the entire bag in the pocket for access during flight. 
  • Hydrate well before, during and after the flight.  Alcohol and caffeine are dehydrating so it’s best to stick with water.  Purchasing a bottle after going through the security checkpoint is a good idea as beverage service on the plane may be delayed.  Drinking one cup of water for every hour you’re in flight can minimize the effects of dehydration. 
  • Humidity levels of less than 25% are common in the cabin of the plane.  Low humidity can cause drying of the eyes, nose and throat.  Viruses thrive in low humidity.  Using a saline nasal spray or gel will keep your nasal passages moist minimizing the risk of infection.  Moisturizing eye drops, especially for contact lens wearers, can help keep you comfortable. 
  • Open the air vent and direct the air so it passes just in front of your face which helps to blow away airborne germs. 
  • Bring your own pillow.  Airline pillows and blankets are often reused without cleaning.  Pack a wrap or a light jacket in your carry-on bag and bring a pair of socks as the temperature in planes tends to be chilly. 
  • Pack a lunch and healthy snacks.  Flights can be delayed or cancelled due to weather, air traffic congestion or mechanical problems.  Even for a short haul it pays to be prepared and avoid the irritability that often accompanies hunger.  Simple, inexpensive snacks can prevent your blood sugar from dipping too low during a long flight.  Bring foods that don’t require refrigeration such as dried fruit, carrot sticks, apple slices, nuts, peanut butter crackers or protein bars so you don’t have to rely on expensive and potentially unhealthy airport fare.  If traveling to another country be aware meat, fruit, cheese and other foods may be quarantined.  If you have any of these types of foods remaining when the flight ends, discard them before disembarking to avoid hassles. 

Planes are germ incubators.  Filtered air circulation is shut down when the plane is on the ground while passengers board and disembark.  All it takes is one sick person to infect many fellow passengers.  Be sure to take into consideration whether you will have access to health items and supplies at your destination. Along with your travel planning and packing, remember to pack a travel health kit including these basic items and any other specialty items you use regularly:

  • Antibacterial wipes and hand sanitizers.  Clean your hands as often as possible to prevent illness and spread of infection. 
  • Bandages and Neosporin for minor cuts, burns, scrapes and blisters. 
  • Hydrocortisone cream for topical relief from insect bites or skin rashes.
  • Benadryl for allergic reactions. 
  • Antidiarrheal medication for gastric upset which is the most common traveler’s nemesis. 
  • Prescription medications which you should always carry on board with you.  Bring extra in case of unexpected delays. 
  • Health insurance information.  You may want to check with your insurance provider to make sure you are covered wherever you roam.  You may also want to consider travel insurance for those unexpected accidents or illnesses if you are traveling to remote areas. 
  • Vitamins and supplements that you normally take at home plus preventatives like vitamin C, probiotics and digestive aids.   
  • Over the counter headache and fever relievers.
  • Cough drops
  • Lubricating eye drops
  • Mild laxative
  • Decongestant
  • Anti-motion sickness medication
  • Sunscreen
  • Insect repellent

Watch For Healthy Airline Travel: Part II, Tomorrow!