Monday, November 9, 2009

Not getting the flu shot? Here are some tips to stay healthy this season...


Upon deciding that I would NOT be partaking of the flu shot (in spite of my daily close proximity to the raging germ-farms known as six year-olds) I decided I had to take alternative action. There is a ridiculous plethora of misinformation available on the world wide web about the cold and flu virus. I have complied the steps I will be taking, as well as debunking some of the common myths associated with these nasty illnesses.

Truths:

1) If you are experiencing vomiting and diarrhea without any upper-respiratory flu symptoms (ie cold symptoms) you are likely experiencing gastroenteritis, and not the flu. Since the flu virus is a respiratory illness these symptoms generally must be present to confirm a diagnosis of influenza.

2) Feeding a cold and starve a fever, or vice-versa will not cure what's ailing you. It is best to give your body enough fuel to fight whatever is ailing it. Studies have shown that it is wise to avoid dairy products while one is experiencing a cold or flu, as they tend to promote mucus production in the body...you know as well as I do, when you're sick, you've got plenty of mucus going on without compounding the problem. Stick to warm soups and teas...As a general rule, the more liquids the better. Warm beverages have been shown to have a soothing effect on those suffering from a cold or the flu.

3) Super-dosing on Echinacea and zinc won't prevent you from catching a cold or the flu. Studies have disproved this methods time and time again...They simply are not effective on a consistent enough basis.

4) If you go outside in winter without your coat on, or with wet hair, you'll be chilly, but you won't "catch your death." Most of us are well aware that germs spread disease, not temperature. The reason we get colds more often in the winter is not because it's cold outside, but rather because we prefer to stay indoors where it is warm. The warm indoors becomes a veritable breeding ground for germs as we all breathe in each other's coughs and sneezes...Gross, I know.

Tips for Survival:

Studies have shown that we are most contagious in the 24 hours BEFORE we even display any cold or flu symptoms. That certainly makes the "prevention" method a tricky gamble. If your find yourself in the throes of a cold or flu, here are some tips I've complied to expedite the healing process, and keep your sickness to yourself.

1) REST! Don't worry, you are not SO important that your job cannot function without you for a few days...and trust me, if you wipe out the whole office by sharing your illness, you'll be even less popular with the boss. Your body regenerates best while sleeping, so help it out! Also, quarantine yourself. No sleeping with your partner (not that (s)he'd want to sleep with your sweaty carcass anyways, right?) and stick to your bedroom as much as possible.

2) Drink fluids, preferably water, unless you can't keep food down, then try juicing some fresh fruits and veggies...Hint: no Fruitopia or Snapple "all natural" literally means NOTHING. Broth-based soups and herbal teas are also soothing for a cold sufferer.

3) Your mom was right, eat chicken soup...and not just because it's comfort food. Home made chicken soup (yes, I mean the boil-the-bones-with-herbs-peppercorns-and-veggies kind...Campbell's doesn't count) has actually been proven to speed healing time because of it's anti-inflammatory properties. It also has the opposite effect on mucus production than dairy products, as it seems to promote mucus drainage. Once again, gross, I know.

4) If you make it a habit to open your windows for a little while each day, you'll promote better fresh-air circulation, and ensure that at least some of the germs have a place to go other than into your body. While prevention is the best "cure," if you're sick, you'll definitely want to keep the windows open to air out your room at least once a day. It will likely be a welcome ritual for those suffering from fever anyways.

5) One column I read suggested washing (or changing) the bed sheets daily. While this practice may not have any real germ-fighting merit, it certainly ups the comfort-level.

6) You can actually shorten the duration of the flu if you take an anti-viral such as Tamiflu as quickly as possible after you become symptomatic, if you want to go the medicinal route.

Of course I hope you don't get the flu, but in the event that you do, at least you (hopefully) won't feel entirely powerless.

Here is an excellent home-made chicken soup recipe you can request your significant other make for you, if you are confident of his/her epicurean abilities. In the event that your spouse is a spaz in the kitchen, and you fear you may wind up MORE sick if (s)he cooks for you, I recommend whipping up a batch now and freezing it for a rainy day.

Martha's Chicken Soup: Health in a bowl!

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