Well, it’s here. All across the country hospitals officially declared flu season a few weeks ago. Hopefully all of you out there have remained healthy, but for those of you who have succumbed to the monster known as influenza, you know how awful it can make you feel and how it can put you out of commission for awhile. Some years are worse than others, with last year being a particularly mild season for the flu. We are definitely starting out with a bang this year, with the hospitals here in North Carolina filled to the max. Every year the formulation of the flu shot is developed based on current and past trends/mutations of the virus and obviously, like any human prediction, has some room for error. This year is one of those years, and the results are thousands of us across the nation laying on our couches in a grumpy, fever induced stupor.
So what is the flu? I mean we all know what it is in general, but do you really KNOW? It’s very common to hear people with a stuffy nose say they have the flu. Then those of you who have actually had the flu want to punch them because you WISH the flu was simply a stuffy nose and feeling run down. Then there’s the term “stomach flu”. That is not influenza and I’m really not sure where that term came from. There are three types of influenza: type A, B, and C. Influenza A is the virus responsible for the epidemics that hit this time of year. Symptoms include sudden onset high fevers, chills, body aches, sore throat, and sometimes kids can complain of tummy aches and/or vomit due to the high fever. For the majority of us, it’s something that can knock us down for a week or two and make us feel like a wrung out rag, but we emerge on the other end unscathed. For those who are very young, very old, immunocompromised, and those with respiratory conditions it can be dangerous and warrant a hospital stay. Tamiflu is a an antiviral medication that is effective in disrupting the virus, but it is time sensitive and most of us are stubborn and don’t visit the doctor till it’s too late for Tamiflu (hey, I’m a nurse and therefore only go to the doctor if I’m actively dying so I totally get it).
Flu is spread by droplets in the air and on surfaces. They come from our body when we cough/sneeze/talk and enter the bodies of others when they contact these droplets. We all know the basic ways to prevent getting sick. Handwashing, staying clear of ill people (duh), getting plenty of sleep, and eating healthy food. Once you are sick, your doctor will tell you to drink plenty of fluids and get lots of rest. But there are some other unconventional preventatives and treatments out there that may be worth a try.
-Elderberry: Elderberry is a plant that grows berries that may decrease inflammation in the body and boost the immune system. This reportedly can help you defeat the flu faster. It can be bought in syrup or gummy forms over the counter as a supplement, or some people prefer to make their own. I’m lazy and will never be standing in my kitchen brewing up a batch of elderberry so gummies it is. And hey, they taste like candy so whatever.
-Honey: Since this is a safety site the first thing I’m going to say is please don’t give honey to children under a year old. For those over 12 months, honey is an excellent and soothing remedy for coughs and sore throats. It is also said to boost the immune system and contains antibacterial properties. We actually use honey at my hospital in wounds with great success. Plus, it’s tasty!
-Bone broth: Yep, from bones. Not your mama’s chicken noodle.This is a very nutrient dense food. It contains tons of minerals essential to allowing your body to heal. It’s also easy to eat when you probably don’t feel like eating.
-Saline: Good ol’ salt and water are good for so many things. Gargling with salt water not only soothes sore throats, it breaks up the thick disgusting mucus that builds up back there and rinses it away.
-Steam: We all know a hot shower can do wonders for congestion but consider making a steam tent on the stove. Boil a pot of water and then remove it from the burner (and turn the burner off so you don’t set your head on fire please). Put a towel over your head so it creates a tent while you hold your face in the steam.
Hopefully the flu has not barged into your house. But if it has, take care of yourself. And if it hasn’t, well, wash those hands and quit licking shopping carts because it’s going to be knocking at your door for the next 3 months. Good luck!