Judson Haims: It’s never too early to start preparing for flu season
Special to The Aspen Times
September is the time of year to drive over the passes and throughout the mountains to check out the changing of the foliage. Fall is one of the most beautiful and colorful times within the Rockies.
As our weather cools off, many people are outside getting in their last hurrahs cycling, running, playing in the rivers and golfing. This weekend while in Edwards having a late breakfast with my wife, I couldn’t help but notice the table of cyclists sitting next to us warming up with their hands cupped around mugs of hot cider and hot coco. Just a week ago, I would have expected to see people reaching for cold glasses of water.
Winter is around the corner and with its onset comes flu season.
First and foremost, the No. 1 thing we can do to protect ourselves from a cold or flu is to wash our hands thoroughly and frequently. Unfortunately, viruses can linger on surfaces for as long as 48 hours. That means when you grabbed a shopping cart at the market, a pen at the bank or place of business to sign your credit card receipt, or got change from a purchase you just bought, a virus could be waiting to infect you. Using a hand sanitizer lotion and being diligent about washing your hands is your first line of defense.
Option other than the flu shot
While the flu shot has been proven to help fend off the flu, many people are not sold on its efficacy and safety. For these people, there are options available that can aid in reducing the chances of catching the flu.
Many years ago, my doctor suggested to me and my family to start taking elderberry prior to flu season as a natural way to fend off the flu. Elderberry has been known to supply the body with antioxidants that assist in fortifying the immune system. Elderberry can be found in teas, extract, syrup and even gummies for children.
Another antioxidant found to be helpful in flu prevention is an antioxidant called N-acetyl-L-cysteine (NAC). Many studies have shown that it inhibits the replication of the flu virus.
Probiotics also have shown to be beneficial in fighting the flu. There is quite a bit of evidence suggesting that good bacteria provided in quality probiotics can aid the body’s immune function and can have a preventive effect for both the cold and flu viruses.
Our gut is integral to our overall well-being. Our gut determines more about our health and emotional/mental well-being than you’d imagine. If the bacteria within your gut is not healthy, you will not be as healthy as you could be and you will leave yourself open to a greater risk of health concerns.
If you are contemplating trying a natural product, please make sure you buy a quality one. Just because a product contains elderberry, NAC or probiotics, potency and purity can vary dramatically. At the back of Carl’s Pharmacy is well-stocked vitamin section. The staff there can help direct you to a number of quality products.
Tips to prepare for flu season
• Don’t let yourself get run down and sleep deprived. Research has proven that proper sleep is integral to helping the body’s immune system battle all kinds of invading infections.
• Try using a humidifier. As the weather turns cold and dry, the tiny hairs inside your nose (cilia) become less effective at protecting foreign pathogens from entering your nasal cavities and possibly triggering an illness.
• High doses of vitamin C. Experts have found that high doses of vitamin C can be effective in preventing and treating the common cold and flu (talk to a medical profession for dosing suggestions).
While supplements have the potential to help keep our body and immune system healthy, it is important to make sure you get the right ones to properly help you prevent illness. If you have questions, please reach out to your medical provider or pharmacist.
Seasonal and H1N1 flu
Over the past few years, seasonal and H1N1 flu viruses have made big headlines. Different strains seem to have become resistant to vaccinations and thus our ability to more thoroughly protect ourselves has become more difficult.
While it is a good idea for everyone to get the flu shot, if you are older than 65 and have a chronic disease, you are more likely to have problems from the flu. Recently, new high-dose vaccinations have come to market that are designed to specifically assist older adults whose immune defenses have become weaker. Data from clinical trials indicate that these new high-dose vaccines assist in promoting stronger antibody levels.
Complications of the flu in seniors may include pneumonia, dehydration and worsening of chronic medical conditions, including lung conditions such as asthma and emphysema and heart disease.
In addition to getting the seasonal flu vaccine and the H1N1 vaccine, it is recommended that you consider the following steps to help protect your health:
• Wash your hands frequently.
• Cover your mouth and nose when you sneeze or cough. (Don’t sneeze into your hands. You may infect everything your touch).
• If you are sick with flu-like symptoms, stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone — unless you need to get medical care.
• Keep your home stocked with a supply supplements, alcohol-based hand rubbing solution and tissues.
By practicing good health habits, you can help yourself from getting sick from the flu this winter.
Judson Haims is the owner of Visiting Angels Home Care in Aspen, Basalt and Carbondale. He is an advocate for the elderly and is available to answer questions. He can be reached at http://www.visitingangels.com/comtns and 970-328-5526.