Flu season arrives during the Fall just in time for the holidays, and it lasts until Spring. It is no coincidence that the number of illnesses such as colds, pneumonia, and the flu drastically increase during the fall months when family and friends all come together. During the recent flu season, over 40 million people in the United States got sick and over 60 thousand people died. Numbers have not significantly improved from previous years before which means that too many people are still risking their lives every year by not properly protecting themselves from contracting these illnesses. Contracting a cold or any other respiratory-related illness increases our chance of also contracting the much more serious influenza virus. Furthermore, getting older, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, chronic lung disease, and other medical conditions cause our immune system to become weaker. So, what can you do to protect yourself during the flu season?
Many of us may know that eating healthy, exercising, drinking plenty of water and taking Vitamin C and Zinc will help our immune system and allow us to recover faster when we are sick. There is another key player that most people do not know about, and it is called a probiotic. A probiotic is a supplement that consists of healthy microorganisms or healthy bacteria that supply our intestines with health-promoting microbes. These microbes find their home in the mucous membranes of our respiratory system and help support our immune system in the fight against the foreign invaders that lead to infections. Studies have shown that patients taking a probiotic blend had a 75% reduction in flu and flu-like illnesses and a nearly 40% reduction in colds compared to patients that took a placebo (pills with no active ingredients). The studies also showed that patients with an active respiratory illness who took a probiotic supplement experienced a reduction in duration and severity. When selecting a good probiotic, it is highly recommended to choose a product that also contains a prebiotic blend. Prebiotics serve as fuel for probiotics, supplying the probiotics with nutrients that the healthy bacteria need in order to survive and flourish.
Experts from Fullscript, an online dispensary for over-the-counter supplements, also stress the importance of taking supplements containing Beta-glucans and Colostrum. Beta-glucans can be mainly found in fungi and oats and play an important role in lymphocyte function. Colostrum is found in the milk of mammals during the first 72 hours of their baby’s life and is high in antibodies. These two supplements, along with the other supplements mentioned, will result in a decreased chance of getting respiratory infections and reduce the duration of current respiratory infections.
Another very important precaution we can take in order to protect ourselves during the flu season is to get a flu vaccination! There are many misconceptions about the flu shot, which have caused many people to avoid getting their yearly vaccination. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has investigated these misconceptions and posted their results on their website. Let’s review some common misconceptions:
Can the flu shot give me the flu?
Flu vaccinations are only made in two ways, either with inactivated(dead) forms of the virus or with a single partial live gene, which causes an immune response but cannot cause an active infection, because only a full virus can cause influenza.
Do I really need to get a flu shot every year?
YES. The CDC recommends annual vaccination for everyone 6 months of age and older due to the possibility of change in the previous year’s influenza strain and the fact that our immune systems change and can be compromised at any point each year.
The flu shot causes me to get sick.
It is possible to get a slight fever, headache, and muscle aches for just a couple days after getting the flu shot. However, the most common reactions to the flu shot include redness and soreness only at the injection site. For anyone with a phobia of needles, just remember that influenza immunization has been approved for everyone 6 months of age and older. The needles used for influenza immunizations are so small that patients may not even know when their doctor or pharmacist is giving them the shot if the patient is looking the other way, and it only takes seconds to receive.
I got the flu shot and still got the flu.
The flu is often confused with flu-like illnesses, such as a cold or other respiratory infection; therefore, see a doctor before drawing any conclusions. Since full immunity does take two weeks after getting vaccinated, it is possible that someone can contract the flu either right before getting immunized or during the two-week gap period. Again, this is why it is very important to take the correct supplements in order to protect yourself from contracting the flu and other respiratory illnesses.
I never get sick; therefore, I do not need to get vaccinated.
Think of vaccination like insurance. No one wants to get sick, but in the rare case that you come into contact with the influenza virus, wouldn’t you like to be covered? Our immune system is constantly changing and unfortunately gets weaker as we get older. Most insurance companies pay for the full cost of the vaccination, and it only takes seconds to receive. Furthermore, a healthy unvaccinated person can contract the virus and never get a full-on infection, but they can transmit the virus to another person. Therefore, vaccination not only protects you but also anyone else you come into contact with.
To do a quick recap, here are the quick recommendations to keep you healthy, especially during the flu season.
- Eat healthy and drink plenty of water
- Take a daily Vitamin C supplement
- Take a daily Zinc supplement
- Take a daily Probiotic containing a prebiotic blend
- Get Vaccinated every year
Following these recommendations can help ensure a healthy flu season for you and for anyone around you.