Since the beginning of humankind, Influenza infection, commonly known as the cold and flu, has had devastating effects on the human population. Sometimes, entire civilizations have been wiped out by its fatal assaults. It’s only that in recent times, with medical advances, that the flu has become much better controlled. Still, it is responsible for an average of 114,000 hospitalizations and 20,000 deaths annually in the United States.
Colds and flu, though sometimes indistinguishable from one another in their clinical manifestations, are caused by two different classifications of virus. There are over 100 different cold viruses, the rhinoviruses causing approximately 50% of all infections. Conversely, there are only 3 major types of influenza virus: A, B, and C.
Though sometimes very similar, the flu is, in general, more severe than the common cold and is attracted to a somewhat different sort of tissue than the common cold. The cold virus attacks the nose and remains an upper respiratory disease; the flu virus prefers the lung itself, and can affect the whole body. The difference in their affinities is one of the reasons that the flu tends to be more severe than a cold; since the lungs are a vital organ with exposure to external pathogens, the potential damage is more serious and the defense system requires greater intensity.
Certain groups have been determined by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and World Health Organization (WHO) to be at high risk for influenza developing into serious complications. Those groups are mainly:
- ages 6 -23 months, and over 65 years old
- people with chronic lung disease such as asthma, emphysema, chronic bronchitis, bronchiectasis, tuberculosis, or cystic fibrosis
- people with heart disease
- people who have chronic metabolic disorders such as diabetes
- people with severe anemia
- people undergoing treatments which suppress immunity
For most of us, it is no more than just an annoying cold. Its duration could be shorter if we are able to rest in bed for three days. However, due to overtaxed lives, many people stay sick and weakened up to three weeks. The suffering of painful throat, body ache and endless cough at night is often enough to cause a grown man to behave like a helpless child. But there is good news: most influenza infections are preventable or can be managed better.
In Chinese Medicine, the flu is caused by a strong pathogenic force that comes about when the environment goes through seasonal changes. It usually occurs in the transition from hot to cold season, from summer to autumn and winter. During this transition, the sun’s rays weaken and give an opportunity for bacteria and virus to become more active. Chinese Medicine can effectively help prevent and/or speed up one’s recovery from the cold and flu.
There are numbers of common sense (and perhaps not-so-common) precautions one should undertake to minimize the spread and severity of the infection.
Cover your nose and mouth when you sneeze and cough. The best way to do this is with disposable tissue. Discard the tissue immediately and wash your hands after that. Do not sneeze into your hands because hands contact more surfaces in the environment than any other part of our bodies and will spread the germs almost as readily as sneezing and coughing without covering your mouth. If you do not have a tissue or anything you can sneeze into and throw away, the latest recommendation from epidemiologists is to sneeze into the upper part of your sleeve near your shoulder. This part of your clothing is convenient for that sudden urge to sneeze or cough and other people are far less likely to have contact with.
Teach entire household to observe germ-preventing habits.
The most important strategy is to make sure everyone in the household understands and follows the precautions. These precautions promote a safe living environment. It is especially important to teach these precautions to children. Most of the details can be understood by children as young as 2 years old with proper instructions, repetitions, and supervision from parents.
Keep immune system strong.
Keeping immune system strong can mean the difference between almost getting sick and developing full-blown symptoms; in can also influence the
duration and severity of the illness. The getting plenty of sleep, staying physically active, drinking plenty of water, and eating a healthy diet will keep your immune system strong. Your diet is supposed to have more dark leafy vegetables, more berries, more hot soups, ginger, garlic. Eat regularly and do not skip the meals. Take more vitamin C and zinc.
Traditional Chinese medical wisdom also recommends Qi gong practice or other forms of meditation to keep healthy. Relaxed mind and happy attitude can strengthen your immunity. Learn to be happy.
Healthcare practitioners, especially those providing care for patients in the “high-risk” categories are encouraged to get vaccinated in order to prevent becoming carriers. A flu vaccination can be effective if it targets the right strain. Most people for whom the vaccine is recommended do not have reactions to it. When reactions occur, the person might develop slight fever, muscle aches, or generalized unwell feeling within the first 24 hours. Unfortunately, vaccines are prepared prior to the flu season based on a “best guess” prediction of which strain will pose the most significant threat for the particular season and why there is no guarantee that the vaccine will immunize the patient for the particular strain that is active in the given year.
But if immunity is compromised, a vaccination might be helpful. Get it done early in October or November. Since a new flu vaccine must be brewed annually, sometimes delay and shortage of available flu vaccine occurs. When there is a shortage of flu shots, or problem of vaccination is unclear Traditional Chinese medicine has answers and can help.
Chinese herbal therapies.
There are two basic strategies Chinese herbal medicine provides against the development of an infection of influenza and the common cold. The first is to boost the protective Qi (internal energy) BEFORE exposure; the second is to prevent an exposure from developing into an infection. Traditional Chinese medicine has herbal formulas for both strategies and for every person individually. Doctor can choose formula from ancient “release exterior” category or simply prescribe one of the modern Chinese formulas developed for their anti-viral properties.
Follow the sunlight.
As the season changes, day becomes shorter and night becomes longer. Sleep earlier and rise later, synchronizing with the sun can help to keep your circadian rhythm working and healthy.
Embarking on a health regimen before the fall and winter will help to reduce the severity and the chance of contracting the flu. Take care of your back pain, neck pain and sinus allergies and other infections promptly.
Take care of symptoms and signs.
When you start to feel tired or with symptoms of flu such as body ache, sore throat,
chills, sneezing, headache, sinus congestion, chest tightness or cough, see your health practitioner right away for treatment.
Do not delay treatments. Frequent treatments rendered at the beginning of the flu can reduce the severity or eliminate the flu in a shorter span of time.
If you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to contact us. Stay healthy through the Flu season.