You might’ve heard that there was more flu than usual around this summer and that hospitals are preparing for a big winter season. So give some thought now to how you’ll protect yourself.
Swine Flu or the H1N1 virus is expected to be the most prevalent strain. It’s a type of Influenza A.
I know of two women in their 60s who contracted flu this summer, and one died. She was 64 and asthma-prone. Getting the flu weakened her, then she caught pneumonia plus another infection.
There are arguments for and against flu vaccine. One of the cons is the risk of developing a resistance to antiviral drugs, but that’s probably the lesser evil if you’re likely to be around sick people, your immunity is low or your respiratory system is vulnerable.
Unfortunately, we can all be around sick people and not know it. The woman who survived her bout of summer flu assumes she picked it up at a shopping centre.
We’re not all at risk of dying from it, but at the very least influenza’s debilitating and it takes a long time to recover, so it makes sense to be proactive.
First, look at what you can do to avoid picking up the virus in the first place.
As I’m writing this it’s 34 degrees and humid, but sooner or later the weather will turn.
When it does, make sure you’re doing the sensible things: getting enough sleep, washing your hands, staying warm, and managing your stress levels.
We’re notoriously poor at reading our own stress levels, but try to do an honest appraisal. If you’re not feeling energised and positive, and stress is the culprit, what would make a difference?
Some of us just need to give ourselves permission to say no and to have a rest.
Food matters too, so when the weather cools down look for recipes that are simple, warming, tasty and nourishing. If you like garlic, onions, ginger and turmeric, they’re anti-viral and great to include in meals.
If you’re not fussed on cooking, or you live alone and can’t be bothered making something each night, make a dish on the weekend that you can eat through the week, or eat some and freeze some.
If you typically hibernate on the sofa through winter, think about what it would take to keep you more active. Regular activity is good for our immunity.
Remember too that your immune system lives in your gut. If you feel yours isn’t up to par and that a probiotic or some good-gut foods might be in order, now’s the time.
Look for the knowledgeable staff at health food shops or pharmacies for advice on probiotics.
They should also be able to help you find immune-boosting supplements. Start with vitamin D since it’s important for so many other aspects of your health.
If you’re not sure about your vitamin D level, now could be a smart time to check. It’s useful to know what your level typically is at the end of summer and at the end of winter, and you can work that out over a couple of years.
Other supplements to consider include those that contain anti-viral herbs or extracts such as echinacea, olive leaf and astragalus — a herb used in traditional Chinese medicine.
I like the Fusion products because they’re well-regarded and widely available. Their Astra 8 contains astragalus and is designed as a preventative. Some people use it through the change of season.
If you do get symptoms, the same brand has a product called Activiral. It contains echinacea, olive leaf and andrographis (a plant used to treat fever and inflammation) as well as vitamin C and zinc.
There are lots of options though.
Whatever you choose to use, don’t wait until mid-winter, or until you feel unwell. Be on the front foot and start preparing now.