Friday Oct 14 | BY |
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The flu season started this month and will last through May 2017. Influenza viruses like cooler temperatures when more people gather together indoors making contagion more likely. Because influenza viruses mutate fast, every year is different making it hard to predict exactly when the peak will hit, or if it will be a mild or cruel flu season. Sometimes, peak infections do not come until March or April. Last year’s flu season peaked in March 2016.

In the fall of 2015, Tom Frieden, M.D., director of the CDC, announced that the main flu strain, Influenza A (H3N2), was going to make for a bad flu season. H3N2 is a type of swine flu and a variant of the H1N1 2009 pandemic swine flu outbreak. It’s been in circulation ever since and has become stronger each year. Dr. Frieden advised preparing for the worst. But, 2015 did not turn out to be a particularly harsh flu year.

Will the 2016-2017 flu season be cruel or mild? No one knows for sure. From CDC testing, this season looks like last year with H3N2 and H1N1 already circulating, with H1N1 responsible for about 75% of flu infections. Because influenza can be a serious respiratory infection, it is advisable to know what you can do to beat the flu when it comes.

Flu and Cold Viruses Prefer Winter

Cold and flu viruses that infect the human nasal passages and lungs like it cold. That’s why we get sicker in the winter. Flu season peaks in the winter between December and March, but can last through May. In the Southern Hemisphere, it peaks between June and August, just when most US tourists are going to Cusco to visit Machu Picchu.

One difference between illnesses caused by cold versus flu viruses is that influenza invades cells deep in the lungs. Rhinoviruses that cause colds, like tissue in the nose, sinuses, and throat. That’s one of the reason influenza; especially H3N2 can be so dangerous. Inflammation in the lungs cause s accumulation of fluid making it difficult to breathe.

Should You Get a Flu Shot?

Because of the many different types and variants of influenza virus, new flu vaccines get released every year. For 2016-2017, two kinds of vaccines are available: one with three types of influenza A virus, and another containing the same three influenza A viruses plus a B strain. However, this is educated guesswork.

Despite frequent mismatch between vaccines and circulating flu viruses, the CDC recommends that everyone get the flu vaccine every year. Why? Annual vaccination has been found to provide some protection against variant viruses. Vaccination may lower the likelihood of severe infections such as hospitalization and death. In my professional opinion, that’s a weak argument for getting annual vaccinations.

If you get a flu shot, timing matters. If you get vaccinated in October, and flu season peaks in March, the vaccine’s effect may have worn off. Also, getting vaccinated every year may reduce effectiveness because your immune response is not as effective. Since scientists have not resolved these questions and concerns, and vaccines are far from perfect, I have never gotten a flu shot.

Are Antiviral Drugs Effective?

If flu vaccines don’t work that well all of the time, what is the best backup? Despite minimal usefulness against H3N2, the CDC strongly recommends antiviral drugs as first line treatment. However, to be effective, flu drugs have to be taken at the first signs of infection. Otherwise they do not work.

The CDC suggests doctors prescribe neuraminidase inhibitors to assist vaccination. The three prescription antiviral medications recommended for this flu season are oseltamivir (Tamiflu), zanamivir (Relenza), and peramivir (Rapivab) for intravenous use in the hospital or medical center.

Two other antiviral drugs, rimantadine (Flumadine) and amantadine (Symmetrel), are much less effective due to antiviral drug resistance. These drugs are not recommended to treat or prevent H3N2 influenza.

Side effects of flu antiviral drugs include nausea, vomiting, dizziness, runny or stuffy nose, cough, diarrhea, headache, and mood changes.

Can Natural Medicines Beat the Flu?

Influenza is a highly infectious disease. It spreads from person to person through the air. The best prevention is to avoid infection. Since flu outbreaks tend to occur in clusters. Check the health department website for your state to see if there is increased activity in your area.

Tips to Avoid Infection:

  • Wear a mask
  • Wear gloves
  • Wash your hands
  • Don’t linger around people sneezing and coughing
  • Stay hydrated

Flu is highly contagious. If you get sick, stay home. Don’t become a super spreader. If you have a high fever, call your doctor. But, before you get sick, learn more about how to avoid, prevent, and effectively treat the flu with natural medicines.

Herbal teas can be helpful. Keep in mind that they will not completely prevent infection. But, they can lessen the severity and shorten the time you are sick. For best results, take them at the first symptoms of the flu.

Herbal Teas to Beat the Flu:

  • Ginger – Make a tea from 4-5 slices of fresh ginger per cup of hot water. Drink one cup three times daily to reduce inflammation.
  • Elderberry Flower – Steep 2-3 tablespoons of dried elderberry flowers in hot water for ten minutes. Keep covered while steeping. Add honey and drink one cup three times daily. Elderberry fights fever and inhibits cold and flu viruses.
  • Yarrow Flowers – Brew 2-3 tablespoons of dried yarrow flowers per cup of hot water. Simmer on the stove for twenty minutes. Keep covered while simmering. It is very bitter, so add honey if you like it sweeter. Drink one cup three times daily. Yarrow may inhibit the H1N1 virus.
  • Boneset – Brew 2-3 tablespoons of dried boneset leaves and stems per cup of hot water. Simmer on the stove for twenty minutes. Keep covered while simmering. Add honey and drink one cup three times daily. Boneset helps reduce the aches and pains associated with the flu.
    • From Beating the Flu, J.E. Williams, OMD 2004

      Don’t forget immune boosting supplements. These natural products help prevent cold and flu, and can also shorten the time that you are sick. From my clinical experience, zinc is the most important immune supportive supplement. I’ve listed these for you in the order of importance, but you can also take all of them for added protection.

      Will The 2016-2017 Flu Season Be Mild or Cruel?

      2015 was supposed to be an awful flu season, but it turned out mild. Experts are reluctant to predict this year’s flu trends because of lack of consistent data. Even Google Flu Trends no longer publishes influenza predictions. However, infectious disease scientists believe that flu forecasting is still worth a shot. Just not yet for this year.

      Dr. J. E. Williams


      Dr. Williams is a pioneer in integrative and functional medicine, the author of six books, and a practicing clinician with over 100,000 patient visits. His areas of interest include longevity and viral immunity. Formerly from San Diego, he now resides in Sarasota, Florida and practices at the Florida Integrative Medical Center. He teaches at NOVA Southeastern University and Emperor’s College of Oriental Medicine.

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      1. June Hanson says:

        Oh, so grateful to have You, Dr Williams as my primary Doctor. All these years, following your advice, your recommended supplements have kept me free from colds and flu.

        Read an article that flu shots will not work this year, too many strains. Why do we rush to put man made chemicals into our body, through shots or prescriptions? Instead of preparing our bodies with natural organic foods, natural supplements, herbs, approved by Doctors like you, who have devoted their lives to this subject.

        All prescription drugs have serious side effects. Should only be used for short time, when there is so much natural healing being offered us. It is the slow, constant, daily supplements taken each day, that prevent us from flu and aging process, which should be monitored by a Doctor like you.

        Exercise daily, especially in fresh air, if possible. it is called proactive, preventive, natural medicine.

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