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Flu Facts and Practical Advice

By Lisa M. Miller, L.Ac.

Influenza Facts

  • Annually, influenza is blamed for approximately 36,000 deaths and 114,000 hospitalizations in adults in the US.

  • People are contagious for 1 - 4 days before the onset of symptoms and up to 5 days after the first symptoms.

  • About 50% of infected people do not show any symptoms but are still contagious.

Prevention is the Key!

Respiratory "etiquette" is a way in which you can help keep yourself and others healthy by preventing the spread of harmful germs (or evil qi, in TCM speak). Be sure to follow the following etiquette guidelines:

  • The first and most important prevention tool is hand-washing. Washing your hands with soap and water is one way to clean them, but an even better way is to use an alcohol-based hand rub. Remember to do this after having contact with your eyes, mouth or nose, as well as any other contaminated objects or materials that you may have touched. The rule of thumb in hospitals and clinics is 15 seconds of washing.

  • Always sneeze, cough, or blow your nose into a tissue to catch the germs so they donít get into the air. Do not forgot to throw used tissues away and wash your hands afterward.

Nutritional Help for the Flu

Naturally occurring chemicals (allin, allicin, and ajoene) in garlic are believed to regulate mucus flow, and may be helpful for reducing congestion caused by the common cold.

Vitamin C
Vitamin C is a superb immunity booster. If taken at the first signs of a cold, it may keep the cold from fully developing and may produce a faster recovery. However, taking vitamin C does not prevent colds. Good sources of Vitamin C: Red Cabbage, Strawberries, Potatoes, Tangerines, Red Bell Peppers, Oranges, Kiwis

When taken immediately at the first signs of catching a cold, zinc may weaken the cold virus, minimize the duration and the severity of a cold. Zinc is believed to promote a strong immune system by processing the essential fatty acids that encourage healing. Zinc lozenges are helpful for this purpose. Good sources of zinc: Barley, Chicken, Lamb, Wheat, Turkey, Oysters, Crab, Beef

According to The Tao of Wellness, the following foods are recommended:

  • ginger

  • garlic

  • green onion, scallions

  • cilantro

  • mustard greens and seeds

  • cinnamon

  • basil

  • grapefruit peel

  • soupy rice porridge

Try a tea made with garlic, ginger, green onion, basil or cinnamon. Induce a sweat by lying under blankets.

According to Qineng Tan, L.Ac., you should drink water to prevent dehydration. Water can help your body flush the invaders and the debris from their battle with your immune system. Chicken soup is recommended because it adds extra water and expels mucous to help you get rid of the illness. Try to drink an 8-ounce glass of water every hour. This is very important to help your body recover from the flu.

Chinese Herbs for Flu

At the first signs of flu, there are a few very good Chinese herbal patents that can help alleviate the symptoms and speed the healing. A classic Chinese formula, Yin Qiao San, has been used for centuries for expelling Wind-Heat (the flu, in TCM speak). It is very effective if taken 12-24 hours after the first signs of flu appear.

One of the best precautions to take is to regularly take the classic Chinese herbal formula, Yu Ping Feng San. It strengthens the immune system and, thus, helps prevent infection. Some brands of this formula call it Jade Screen because it acts like a screen against the cold/flu virus.

References: The Tao of Nutrition, by Maoshing Ni, Ph.D., C.A., and Cathy McNease, B.S., M.H.


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