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How do I prevent getting the Influenza?

Darin Ingels, ND, FAAEM, FMAPS

It’s January and the people who have been visiting my practice, the last couple weeks, have symptoms related to a cold or Influenza. Its flu season, it’s definitely in full force, and I’m hearing it from people who are local as well as people who live around the country. I want to give you my top tips for treating the flu, because if you’ve ever had the flu it’s absolutely miserable. Your body hurts, your head hurts, you’re tired, you just don’t want to get out of bed. It’s a virus typically caused by different forms of influenza virus; I think this year it’s influenza A. It tends to alternate years between influenza A and influenza B, this year seems to be influenza A.

We know from the research on the influenza vaccine, it’s not very effective this year.

Even if you got the shot, there’s a good possibility if you get exposure, that you might actually develop symptoms.

Oscillococcinum for the Flu

One of my favorite remedies for dealing with flu is a homeopathic remedy called Oscillococcinum It’s really long, it comes in a big wide box, and you can find it in most health food stores such as Whole Foods, or your local health food source. It comes in a big wide box, and there’s several tubes in it.

Basically you take one tube under your tongue. They’re little sugar pellets, they actually taste good. Even for kids will take it. And you can give a dose every couple of hours, and it really helps mitigate the flu symptoms. It’s not going to necessarily get rid of it 100%, but definitely can help reduce the fever, stop some of the body pain, and just help get it through a little bit faster.

Oscillococcinum is safe for adults and children. You can find it at pretty much any health food store, and it’s not super expensive either. I recommend you keep taking it until you get to a point where you start to feel better. There are lots and lots of other homeopathic remedies that are indicated for flu, and if that’s something you choose to pursue I would recommend you work with a homeopathy that really understands the individual remedies, to give you something that’s very specific for you or your child. Oscillococcinum is definitely at the top of my list.

Elderberry for the Flu

Elderberry is an herb, and actually it’s a berry so it tastes good. Again, kids will take it. It typically comes as a syrup. Be aware that a lot of elderberry syrup actually comes in a base of honey. If you have a child under the age of two, be careful. You don’t want to give honey to children under the age of two because of the risk of Botulism.

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I personally have never ever seen that, but it’s one of those warnings that goes out there, so please be careful.

They do make elderberry syrup that isn’t in a honey base, but a lot of the commercial products are, so just be mindful of that. And again, for children you can give anywhere from a half a teaspoon to a full teaspoon every couple of hours. Again, it’s not toxic, it’s safe, and it really helps.

It’s a natural antiviral, and since we’re dealing with a virus this is just another way to shorten the course of flu.

Wet Sock Treatment for Colds and Flu

I actually wrote an article on it in one of my previous blogs. It’s one of these things that sounds honestly very strange. And when I first heard about it, I thought it was kind of kooky. Having used it on numerous patients over the last 20 years; for some people it works really well.

It involves getting some cotton socks, put them in cool water, ring them out. Put them on your feet, and then get some big wool socks, put them over the top of that, and then go to bed. When you wake up in the morning those socks are going to be bone dry, and often it helps drop the fever, people report that their body pain feels better. This is an old naturopathic therapy. It’s something we’ve used for years, and for some people it works really well.

The trick is just do it before bedtime, and in the morning people often do feel better. You can do it each night, or you can do it during the day. It’s just overnight you’re not moving around. Walking around with wet socks probably wouldn’t be very comfortable. This is a very inexpensive, easy thing to do.

Herbs for the Flu

There are a lot of herbs that are really helpful in treating viruses. Influenza is a virus, so we use herbs like:

  • Andrographis
  • Echinacea
  • Lomatium

I think the challenge with herbs, particularly with kids, is that some of them are kind of bitter, they don’t taste great. If you can get them in, it does help shorten the course. Certainly as an adult, they make a lot of these as encapsulated products, so as long as you can keep things down. A lot of people when they get the flu, they’re nauseous, they’re vomiting, they don’t want to keep anything down, so that’s always the challenge with flu is how can we just get things in the body? But if you can stomach it and if your child can stomach it, they sell these herbal preparations at most health food stores.

I am a big fan of Andrographis, particularly for adults. It comes as an encapsulated product, I’ve used it for just any kind of upper respiratory virus, I’ve used it for flu, and clinically I find it works pretty well.

For kids I like a product called Lomatium Isolate, it’s made by a company called Eclectic Institute. It comes as a little bottle, and then you just use drop doses, you can mix in a little bit of water or juice. Lomatium is a very potent antiviral, so it works really well.

Vitamin D for the Influenza

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Vitamin D is actually a hormone, it’s not a vitamin. I find that a lot of people tend to be vitamin D deficient, particularly in the Wintertime because you get most of your vitamin D from being out in the sun. And even here in sunny California, it’s actually been pretty cool, so a lot of people are indoors. And when they are outdoors, they have a jacket, they’re covered, they’re not really getting that skin exposure to raise their vitamin D levels.

Supplemental vitamin D can be very beneficial. For children this time of year, up to 2,000 IU’s is very safe. And for adults, anywhere from five to 10,000 IU’s a day is safe. Make sure you take vitamin D with a little bit of food just to help improve the absorption. Vitamin D is a hormone, actually is an immune modulator. It does actually help boost your immune system, so just adding that extra vitamin D can definitely make a difference.

You can use some of these things, particular the botanicals as a preventive measure. Certainly if anyone in the house has the flu, make sure everybody’s washing their hands, it’s very important. This is very easy to pass, so the more you wash your hands, it just reduces that risk of passing it from one person to the next. I hope these tips help.

Darin Ingels, ND, FAAEM, FMAPS

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