by Katherine Willow ND

sneezeThis is a summary of general health tips and naturopathic tips for any type of flu, as well as specifics on the H1N1 virus (you might also read my post, Should you get the H1N1 Swine flu shot?).  If you have any questions, please contact your naturopathic doctor as we specialize in programs that meet individual needs. If you are in the Ottawa, Ontario area, feel free to call our clinic at 613-839-1198.

So far, most people with H1N1 recover without any specific treatment.

General flu symptoms
The new H1N1 flu virus is a respiratory illness that causes flu-like symptoms including fever (often high), cough, shortness of breath, muscle aches, fatigue, severe headache, sore throat, lack of appetite, possible nausea, vomiting, diarrhea. Most cases in Ontario have been mild.

Warning signs for children:

  • fast or troubled breathing
  • bluish or grey skin colour
  • not drinking enough fluids/dehydration
  • not waking up/interacting
  • irritable to point of not wanting to be held
  • flu symptoms improve but return with fever and cough

Warning signs for adults:

  • difficulty breathing/shortness of breath
  • pain or pressure in chest or abdomen
  • sudden dizziness
  • confusion
  • severe or persistent vomiting
  • flu symptoms improve but return with fever and worse cough

A naturopathic doctor is trained to deal with these situations and can help you decide what path to take.

How the flu is spread

  • person to person via coughing, sneezing and touching contaminated objects (virus can live 2-8 hrs outside the body)
  • people are contagious one day before getting ill, to 7 days after becoming ill

Who it affects & particular groups at risk

  • teens and children more than other age groups
  • people over 65 seem to be immune
  • pregnant women
  • children under under 2-yrs-old
  • those with asthma, diabetes and heart conditions

General steps for prevention

  • hygiene–regularly washing hands with soap for 15-20 seconds
  • disinfect surfaces in home, i.e. kitchen, bathroom, bedside tables and toys
  • if using hand sanitizer gel, rub until dry
  • cough into sleeve/arm

Lifestyle habits to keep away the flu

  • a healthy diet, especially minimizing congesting foods, sugar, caffeine, excess meat, excess alcohol
  • adequate, easily digestible proteins; lots of veggies, moderate fruit, adequate water
  • adequate sleep favouring the hours before midnight
  • exercise according to body type without overdoing it; yoga and stretching good
  • keep a positive attitude — stress lowers immunity
  • fall detox program is a fantastic preventive, see your ND for individualized suggestions
  • deep breathing exercises, they are relaxing and oxygenate your system. Many of us are shallow breathers, especially if we lead a busy lifestyle

Immune system boosters

  • astragulus (can use in cooking)
  • shitake mushrooms (can also use in cooking)
  • black elderberry extract once daily
  • garlic, raw if possible
  • Vit D, 1000 IU, twice daily also helps with seasonal depression
  • Vit A, E, C; zinc, copper, selenium; L-glutamine moderate doses
  • probiotics, most lactobacillus strains, 24 billion/d for a month
  • essential fatty acids 2-3X daily in capsules or liquid
  • adrenal support (glandulars, herbs, homeopathy–ask ND for individual suggestion)
  • full spectrum light therapy as we had insufficient sun this summer
  • Thymuline homeopathic pellets once a week

Vaccinations

  • H1N1 vaccines (2 shots) will be available in November in addition to the regular seasonal flu shot
  • naturopathic doctors are comfortable with individual choices about whether to use the vaccine
  • be aware of additives such as squalene and thimerosol
  • become aware of infection rates in your area and avoid crowds when appropriate

Treatment if you become sick

  • stay at home and rest until 24 hours after the fever breaks
  • it’s okay to go to work if a family member is ill (you’re not contagious)
  • allow a mild to moderate fever, 37.5 degrees optimizes the healing response
  • lighten diet immediately, even fast if you are able, avoiding congestive foods like dairy, wheat, fried foods, bananas
  • sugar depletes the immune system, avoid as much as possible
  • drink warm herbal teas to break the fever
  • peppermint can be inhaled to decongest the lungs

Anti-viral products

  • vit C 1000mg every 4 hours for 3 days and then 1000mg daily (or to bowel tolerance)
  • elderberry supplements, following directions (studies show remarkable results with flu)
  • garlic, 2-3 cloves/day and gradually reduce
  • green tea
  • tea tree or oregano oil steam inhalation

Other supplements

  • echinacia at first sign and every 2 hours of recommended dose

Homeopathic remedies

  • use a home kit or ask your ND for a specific remedy; especially good for children

Hydrotherapy

  • hot compresses over chest to decongest lungs, making sure to stay warm
  • cold, wrung-out socks covered with wool socks to bring down fever (esp for children)
  • dry skin brushing; hot then cold showers support lymphatic function
  • your ND may have more specific recommendations

Medical antivirals

  • Tamiflu and Relenza take an average of 1/2 day off a six day illness;  most people won’t need these, more for people who have other conditions and are medically oriented
  • medical cold and flu remedies are not generally indicated for children
  • avoid aspirin for children under 13 (Reyes syndrome)

Resources

  • CAND/OAND for referrals to your nearest naturopathic doctor — their websites are cand.ca and oand.org
  • Telehealth Ontario to help decide whether to go to hospital: 1-866-797-0000 or similar for other provinces
  • books:  Staying Healthy with the Seasons, Elston Haas MD &
    Nourishing Traditions, Sally Fallon
  • Supplements Plus:  offer a wide range of mail order supplements to serve ND patients, 10% off with mention of ND / supplementsplus.ca or  toll-free 800-387-4761
  • local health food stores / holistic pharmacies

Good health to you!

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