Strong Immune System: Your First Line of Defense from Flu

Influenza, may look like a simple cold in the surface, but it is undeniably, a serious health concern. It hospitalizes about 200,000 people in United States every year, and kills 36,000 annually. The flu vaccine remains the best solution to stop the problem right before it begins.

Medical health professionals gather samples and information around the world for influenza samples to pin point which strain will likely be more prevalent and more dangerous for the coming season. However, forecasting which strain becomes more prevalent in the coming season can be quite tricky, and this is where the importance of having a strong immune system gets into the picture.

Anyone who wants to save themselves from the dangers of flu and its symptoms should get vaccinated. People belonging to more vulnerable groups such as children 6 months and older, adults over 50, pregnant women, and people with chronic medical conditions are strongly advised to take their annual shot of the flu vaccine.

Healthy kids and adults and pregnant women can also opt for nasal vaccines, which are given in a form of a mist.

However, not everyone can get a shot of the immunization, as people with chicken egg allergies and those who have had bad reactions to flu shots are discouraged to take it because of allergic reactions, as egg is an important part of the vaccine. Here are some practical tips to strengthen your immune system and have a good first line of defense against flu this coming season.

Eat Healthy

Having a balanced diet of fresh and good foods loaded with vitamins and minerals is crucial for keeping a tougher immune system. Some of the most important vitamins for battling flu are Vitamin A, B6, C and E along with minerals like iron, zinc, selenium, and copper. Fruits and veggies are rich with such nutrients, while supplements can help cover the insufficient nutrients intake. For cold seasons, health professionals advice to increase vitamin C intake to better fight the influenza virus.

Eat Garlic Everyday

Some foods are simply better than others in terms of giving your body’s defense system a boost. Garlic is one good example of an immuno-booster, as it’s a very good antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral food that can prevent infection from getting and spreading throughout the body. Two cloves of garlic a day is already enough. To avoid bad breath issues, dice the cloves and swallow them with water or herbal tea. You can also follow it up with a sprig of parsley.

Eat Mushroom Everyday

Mushrooms improve the body’s chances of fighting infection by giving white blood cells a boost. White blood cells are responsible in stopping infectious viruses right at the doorsteps. Shiitake and maitake mushrooms are the common choices.

Keep Yourself Active

Pump up your immune system by sweating for 30 to 60 minutes a day. Several studies show that an active body is a healthy body. It reduces stress and keeps the optimum weight in good shape.

Sleep Enough

Getting a good night’s sleep is vital to combat stress and boost the body’s immune system. Eight hours of sleep every night is good enough to get the body moving.

Follow these steps and take good care of your body and you will improve your chances to avoid the flu.

 

Things You Need To Know About The Flu Vaccine For 2013

Prevention is better than cure, we all agree on this, that’s why flu vaccine is there to help our body ward off the influenza virus. We all know that even if you heal from the flu, the hassles in hospitalization are just impractical, not to mention it can pose some real threats to your health when ignored and thought as simple common colds. The CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) reported in 2007 that, there are about 200,000 people rushed to hospitals because of flu and related complications, while 36,000 of them died.

More About The Flu Vaccine

Who Needs The Vaccine?

The CDC recommends everyone should get the flu shot every year, except 6 months old and younger. This includes older individuals (people over 50 years old), pregnant women, and even people with chronic medical issues. Also, people working and living in nursing homes and in different long-term care facilities are highly recommended to take the flu shots to keep themselves safe from all the risks associated with the virus.

Why We Need To Get It Annually?

The influenza virus is a virus that evolves from time to time, usually from season to season. With this, the virus is able to mutate and change into a new strain, allowing easily evading our body’s immune system and infecting our body with the illness. With this obviously, what worked last season may have little or even no effect on this season’s flu virus. That’s why health experts are formulating new solutions for the vaccine to effectively ward off the virus.

People experiencing fever and are allergic to chicken eggs on the other hand, can’t take the flu shot, as it can trigger allergic reaction. Also, people who’ve had bad allergic reactions in the past are highly discouraged to take the vaccine.

Flu Vaccine In The US for 2012 – 2013 Flu Season

Various manufacturers are making their trivalent (vaccines with 3 components) vaccines for the US market, and this includes the IM type (intramuscular) and nasal spray type of shots. Though there are manufacturers out there that are making quadrivalent versions of the vaccine, this type is not yet needed for this year’s season or any time soon.

Amount of Available Vaccines For This Season

For this year, the US government is expecting to see about 149 million doses of flu shots. Quite a big leap from last season’s 132.8 million.

Who Makes These Flu Vaccines?

Vaccines for influenza are made by different manufactures all over the country. These are licensed manufacturers accredited by the government and works hand in hand with the health departments (Food and Drug Administration) to ensure a safe and effective process. Contrary to what most people believe, the CDC doesn’t make any flu vaccines.

How The Vaccine Works Inside Our Body?

Vaccines for influenza are studied and made meticulously to safeguard consumers from the 3 most common strains of the flu virus, which what experts believe to be very prevalent this year’s flu season. US health departments discovered 3 types of influenza that’s affecting and circulating in the US today, and these are the influenza A (H1N1), influenza A (H3N2) and the influenza B virus. Every year, one virus from each kind is used to make the new seasonal flu shot.

Flu Vaccine for Your Toddler

In the past couple of months, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), issued a statement about their new guidelines for 2012 influenza season and the flu vaccine for children. Also, the CDC recommends that children over 6 months should get their standard flu shot (LAIV – live attenuated intranasal vaccine), also called as the FluMist, a nasal spray type of vaccine. Though there were no significant changes in the guidelines in the past, the AAP emphasized the importance of getting the shot, especially for children, and that parents should be meticulous in administering shots for their kids.

Last year’s influenza season required only one shot of the vaccine, this year however, may be a bit different, because depending on the age of the child, he/she may need more than one shot. Parents are encouraged to take their kids to their doctors for clarification on this matter and for the schedule of the next shot. Furthermore, parents are advised to take note of the inoculations administered to their kids, especially on dosage.

Flu vaccines are now available in all over the United States. Get your vaccine and provide your body the protection it needs from the health hazards of the virus and its symptoms as it peaks next year and stretches until late of March 2013.

Flu Treatments And The Truth Behind Them

Influenza, or commonly called as flu, is a respiratory infection caused by the influenza virus. This virus is airborne and highly contagious. It enters the human body through the mouth and/or nose and binds around the sialic acids along the epithelial cells inside the nose down to the lungs with a protein called hemagglutinin. The human body then absorbs those viruses carried by cells on a process called endocytosis. Once absorbed, the virus then reproduces and multiplies, causing it to mutate and spread throughout the body. It’s a pretty sophisticated process, and strains of the virus usually changes from time to time, making it hard and confusing for the body’s immune system to ward off the virus and stop the infection. And this is where the nagging symptoms start to show up.

Often times, most people confuse flu with common colds because of the similarities of their symptoms. However, it is important to understand that, flu symptoms are far worse than the symptoms in common colds and this impose various health risks, especially to children and elderly individuals with weaker immune system. Children, for example, may experience distressing symptoms such as diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting.

Treating Flu and its Symptoms 

Flu is caused by a virus, so before you rush into your nearest pharmacy and panic-buy for medicines, you need to understand that there’s nothing much you can do but to let the virus run its course and help your body’s immune system on dealing with it. Yes, your first and last line of defense is your immune system. You can strengthen your immune system to regain health and effectively combat the virus and ward it off from your body.

Of course, flu comes with symptoms, and these are always distressing and nagging symptoms. However, you don’t have to endure all these symptoms, as you can always use medications and treatments to lessen the effect of the prevailing and most annoying ones.

Medications for flu are used simply to alleviate distressful and painful symptoms. The most common treatment for this illness is still quite generic – drinking plenty of water, bed rest, and taking Paracetamol to alleviate the effects of the symptoms. However, you need to understand that, the effects of the virus differ from one person to another. This is why doctors suggest treating the illness from its most prevalent symptom. Here are the most common flu symptoms and their treatments.

Flu with Nasal Congestion

The flu virus will cause the nasal passages to get congested and swollen, and it can be the most annoying symptoms that go along with the infection. A good common relief for this symptom can be bought over the counter, such as decongestants and nasal sprays. However, spray shouldn’t be used more than 5 days, to avoid rebound congestion.

There are doctors who prescribe medicated or saline spray. Saline spray is a pretty popular choice, as it loosens the mucous along the nasal passage and doesn’t usually risk rebound effect.

For People with High Blood Pressure

Decongestants are usually over-the-counter drugs, but it’s still important to seek doctor’s approval before taking it, especially if you have an existing high blood pressure issues, as decongestants can cause the blood pressure to surge and increase heart rate. However, if you’re taking medications for high blood pressure, then decongestants shouldn’t be a big problem. But then again, you should keep an eye of your health.

Flu with Cough

Flu usually comes with cough, which is important to clear the lung from pollutants and bacteria-carrying phlegm out of the lungs. There are so many prescription and non-prescription medications for flu with cough, but for those with persistent and painful cough, it’s wiser to seek for professional diagnosis. Pharmacists in your nearest drugstore can also suggest for suitable medications for the symptom.

Flu with Sore Throat

Salt water gargle (where you mix a teaspoon of salt in a lukewarm water and gargle) and drinking lots of fluids is the most popular and effective quick remedy for sore throat, especially when you wake up in the morning. Sore throat is usually caused by bacterial infection, thus it’s always good to have your doctor diagnose the problem. Lozenges are also popular over-the-counter remedy, but they shouldn’t be taken for more than two days straight.

Flu with Body Aches and Fever

Kids are usually discouraged to take aspirins for pain relief and fever. Rather, milder over-the-counter drugs such as naproxen and ibuprofen are advised. Go to your nearest drug store and ask your pharmacist for the best suitable remedy for flu with body aches and fever. Also, make sure you give your body plenty of bed rest.

 

Distinguishing Flu Symptoms From Common Colds

Most often than not, people confuse common colds with flu, and vice versa, as both are characterized by similar symptoms. Flu and common colds are both cold by different viruses, making one simply different from the other. So if you’re suffering from either one of these illnesses, it’s wise that you know exactly what you have to address it with the right treatment.

Distinguishing Flu from Common Cold

Coughing, chilling and sweating, runny nose, stuffy nose, fever, headache, muscle ache, fatigue, sore throat, etc., are the usual symptoms we associate with either one of the illnesses. However, many of these symptoms are distinct to just one condition, and don’t show to the other. Either way, symptoms for both flu and common colds usually last for as short as 3 days to a couple of weeks or more, depending on the severity of the condition and level of immune system. Here are some key things that separate one from the other:

Flu, along with its virus that triggers the symptoms, usually come without warning, and one may develop symptoms for as fast as 2 to 3 days. The virus can make you really sick, and unfortunately; you have to let the illness run its course and let your own immune system battle with it for days. The virus usually goes for 4 to 5 days, but to be completely recovered from all of its symptoms, it may take 2 weeks or more. Of course, you can always treat the nagging symptoms such as headaches, muscle pain, and fever with Paracetamol and other similar medications for pain.

One of the scariest things about flu is that, when complications start to show up, and the illness doesn’t go by itself; it may lead into lung infection. Those with existing health problems, such as diabetes, lung problem, heart problem, kidney issues, etc. and elderly individuals (over 65 years of age) may experience the illness worse than healthy individuals.

Here are the common symptoms that cause people to confuse flu with common colds:

Chills and Sweats

These symptoms are usually caused by flu, and common colds doesn’t usually have this type of symptom.

Coughs

If it’s severe dry cough, then its flu, but if it’s a cough with milder phlegm discharge, then its common colds.

Fatigue

People experiencing flu full blast with its symptoms, can feel very and exhausted, which can last for days, or even weeks. Common colds, on the other hand, can cause people to feel tired, but they still function almost normally.

Fever

People suffering from flu may experience high fever (higher than 102° F), and may last for 3 to 5 days.

Headache

Severe headache may be experienced with flu, while common colds have milder, or usually no headaches at all.

Muscle Pains

Muscle pain is common in flu, and it may be experienced from all over the body, most especially during the early days of the illness. Arms, back, and legs are the usual target for muscle pain of the virus. On the other hand, common colds may cause relatively milder muscle aches, which are usually isolated around the upper body and the head.

Nausea

Flu comes with loss of appetite and vomiting, which usually develops into nausea. Common colds, on the other hand, don’t have this symptom.

Runny and Stuffy Nose

There may be some discharge for stuffy nose on flu, while common colds is usually associated with severe runny and stuffy nose with sneezing and lots of discharge.

Sore Throat

Flu may have sore throat, but a milder compared to common colds.

Both flu and colds are caused by infection of the virus, and unfortunately, we have to leave them run its course.  Though there are tons of drugs and medicines out there, your best treatment against both common colds and flu is to strengthen your own immune system and let your body deal with it. Of course, you can always take medications to lessen the discomfort caused by prevailing symptoms, such as headaches and muscle aches.

Though common cold’s symptoms don’t really leave people incapacitated during its stay in the body, people suffering from fly should never take the illness for granted, especially those with existing chronic illnesses, as it can develop into infection and cause more severe health issues.

You know that prevention is always better than cure, so for high-risk groups, it’s always better to have a strong resistance against these viruses. Build better immune system through balanced diet, good rest, and exercise. If symptoms persist, then visit your doctor and have him/her prescribe antibiotics to prevent opportunistic bacteria from affecting the whole body.

Read more about the current flu season in the US…

Southern Hemisphere is battling with the early flu season

While many countries in the Northern Hemisphere were enjoying the warmth of summer season and seeing the decrease of little flu activity (except Hong Kong) last July, the southern part of the equator was just starting to feel the flu season, particularly in Australia, some parts of South America, New Zealand, and Africa.

Health experts say that observing the flu season in southern hemisphere will give us a good idea as to what to expect this coming fall. It may not prove predictive, but some clues and signs can be of great help to prepare.

After the mild flu season in Northern Hemisphere, it seems that some parts of the Southern Hemisphere, particularly Australia and New Zealand, are experiencing the harder, and earlier flu season this year.

A report from Yahoo Australia in 6th of July this year, shows how pressure mounts in with different flu virus, and recorded the earliest flu season in the last decade in West Australia. Health experts have warned that this could be the year for bad flu, as almost of diagnosed cases were A/H3N2, a strain of flu deadlier than usual strains and cause worse illnesses.

The WHO report says the different flu virus of the seasonal H3N2 has antigenitically drifted apart away from the vaccine strain, thus it is slightly a different virus compared to last year.

The flu vaccine we have in circulation contains A/Perth/16/2009 (H3N2)-like virus, despite of the mismatch, WHO expects the vaccine to at least, provide some protection against the evolving virus. Experts however, are working on a new vaccine, and this fall, a new flu vaccine will be introduced, and it contains A/Victoria/361/2011 (H3N2)-like virus.

Early last month, the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy (CIDRAP) published a news article about the influenza activity across the Southern Hemisphere, particularly Australia and above baseline levels of New Zealand. Report says that though the activity patterns of the circulating strains of the virus vary among the regions in Southern Hemisphere, the Influenza A (H3N2) remain predominant in Australia, while most of influenza B is in the Northern Territory, such as Western Australia and Queensland.