After a long campaign to garner public interest for the H1N1 vaccination, public health and the media have succeeded in creating a panicked and fearful public.
Our recent poll below has confirmed that many people are completely confused about H1N1, and that some of the hysteria is directly media influenced:
H1N1 is a mild influenza that has taken the lives of a few unfortunate individuals. Seasonal influenza remains as a much larger threat to the health of the Canadian public.
At the time of writing, there is no evidence that any kind of antigenic shift has occurred in the H1N1 virus. This means that the virus has not changed or mutated. As far as we know, if we follow the pattern of other countries, the infection should get milder as the season goes on.
I’m writing this at the end of the an exhausting day at my clinic, where I have fielded hundreds of phone calls from concerned patients. Clearly, people need useful advice and an action plan for their families. Here is what you can do:
- Sleep. Go to bed 1 hour earlier every night for the next two weeks. I call this my sleep challenge, and it can be a life changing experience. Not only will you feel like a new person, but your immune system will respond favorably and quickly. If you have children, this rules also applies. Pre-teens and teens are the worst offenders in the sleep deprivation department, but they are also old enough to be concerned about this flu. Tell them why you want them to go to bed early, then tuck them in like you used to, and turn off their light.
- Avoid sugar. This sounds unmanageable at the end of October with Hallowe’en looming. Historically, in the first week of November, I see a huge increase in the number of sick children. I truly believe that this is because of the massive ingestion of sugar that happens in the days leading up to and the week following Hallowe’en. In the past, research has shown that sugar lowers your white blood cell count, which impedes your ability to fight infection. Maybe this year, Harry the Hallowe’en Fairy should visit your house, with a toy to exchange for candy. Or perhaps you could talk to your children, and explain why you’re going to put the candy away until after flu season. Don’t be a complete party pooper – do something fun on Hallowe’en (pumpkin toss, or Hallowe’en party) instead of gorging on sugar loaded treats.
- Wash your hands. Wash with soap and warm water for 20 seconds when you come home from work, school, when you get off the train, or whenever you leave a public place.
- Stop focusing on the bad news. Whatever you hold as your predominant thought can become your reality.
- Eat at home. We all love to eat out at restaurants, but there has never been a better time to make the time for nutritious healthy meals at home. Good nutrition (5+ servings of vegetables per day) is the undisputed cornerstone of health, bar none, no exceptions. We have no reason to think that this wouldn’t provide superior protection this flu season.
- Supplement your diet.
- Vitamin D is showing a lot of promise as a potent antiviral. It’s no coincidence that influenza season coincides with the decreased amount of sunlight experienced in all hemispheres on the planet. The sun is our primary source of Vitamin D, and new research coming from the University of Colorado, Denver school of Pharmacy suggests Vitamin D boosts immunity against respiratory infections like the flu. Children under 12 generally take 400 IU per day. Adults should take at least 1000 IU per day.
- Vitamin C is still an effective way to ward off viral infections. Because Vitamin C is very safe, and because it is water soluble, high doses are simply flushed from the body through urine. Children under 12 should take 500mg/day, while adults should consume 1000-3000mg/day.
- Multivitamins are your nutritional insurance. Certain vitamins that are critical to creating a strong immune response are found in higher quality multivitamins. In particular, Vitamin A, C, E, Selenium and Zinc work to boost your immunity. Vitamin A is a fat soluble vitamin and should not be taken in excess of 10000IU in women who are pregnant.
- Probiotics. These are good bacteria that live in your digestive tract. Our modern diet results in “disbiosis”, which is an imbalance of good to bad bacteria. A large portion of your immune system as an adult, and an even larger part as a child, resides in your digestive tract. There is excellent evidence to suggest that probiotics supports immunity. If you purchase probiotics at your local health food store, you should find them in their fridge. You should store them at home in your fridge.
- Rinse your nasal cavities and your throat. Saline solution washes the virus out of your throat and into your stomach, where stomach acid kills it. Many devices are available at pharmacies for doing a nasal rinse. This procedure is remarkably comfortable, and is an effective way to dislodge a virus from your mucus membranes. And of course, don’t forget good old fashioned gargling with salt water.
Remember, rather than buying into the panic, get busy, take care of yourself and your family. There’s never been a more important time to sleep well, eat well, and laugh.
None of this information is intended to substitute for the advice of your primary health care provider. If you have more questions, talk to your Naturopath or your family doctor.