The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reported 22,048 flu cases from Sept. 30 through the end of 2012. By the same time last year, only 849 flu cases had been reported nationwide. That’s 26 times more flu cases by the last week of this year than by the last week of 2011. Schaffner, a former president of the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases, explained that the dominant virus from 2009 through last year was the H1N1 flu strain, nicknamed swine flu. But this year, the flu season started early with a different dominant strain:H3N2.“This year, we’re seeing a lot of H3N2, which you see in the past tends to affect young kids and the elderly more,” said CDC spokesman Tom Skinner. “That may be some of the explanation for why we’re having more of a severe flu season this year.”
Schaffner said children and the elderly are always the most vulnerable to the flu, because they have weaker immune systems than everyone else. Children actually exhale more flu virus than adults when they get sick, and they exhale it longer, making them the “great distributors of influenza virus,” he said.
In January 2012, Michael Osterholm
, an epidemiologist at the University of Minnesota’s Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy
, and his colleagues published a meta-analysis
in The Lancet Infectious Diseases
that analyzed the results of all randomized controlled clinical trials
conducted between 1967 and 2011 on the effects of flu shots. It found that there have been no clinical trials evaluating the effects of the traditional flu vaccine in the elderly. The only vaccine shown to protect against infection or death in older adults, it said, is the live-attenuated vaccine—an inhalable vaccine that contains a live, modified version of the virus—which is not approved in the U.S. for adults over age 50.
The lack of research on seniors stems in part from the fact that the U.S government considers such clinical trials unethical. Based on an idea known as clinical equipoise
, scientists can’t test, in a randomized controlled trial, a treatment that the larger medical community already considers to be effective, because doing so would involve denying treatment to half of the participants, potentially putting them at risk. “We’re in a difficult spot,” CDC epidemiologist David Shay says—since the CDC already recommends flu shots to seniors, the agency can’t suddenly turn around and ask them to participate in a clinical trial that might deny them the standard of care.
In healthy adults under 65 the flu shot does seem to reduce the risk of getting the flu but only by a small margin, this means adults have about a four percent chance of catching the flu if they don’t get the vaccine and about a one percent chance if they do.(And of course, the vaccine won’t protect against the nearly 200 viruses that cause flu-like symptoms but aren’t actually the flu.) Although scientists generally believe that the flu vaccine slows the spread of the virus through communities, there are no data showing that this is true, because “those studies are very difficult to do,” Shay explains.
So getting the flu shot may provide marginal protection but also carries risk.
Natural Flu Treatments
If you would rather employ natural means to treat the flu, here are my favorites
In 1992, a team of Israeli scientists studied the effect of elderberry on flu patients. During a flu epidemic at an Israeli Kibbutz, half of the flu patients were given an elderberry syrup, the other half a placebo. The results: within 24 hours, 20% of the patients receiving elderberry had gotten significantly better. Within two days, 75% of the elderberry group were much improved; within 3 days 90% were completely cured.
Among the placebo group, only 8% of patients improved within 24 hours and it was a full 6 days before 90% of the patients were cured.
Elderberry is safe, natural, and appears to work against a wide variety of flu viruses. In addition to clinical studies, laboratory experiments show that elderberry neutralizes flu viruses in petri dishes and cures the flu in mice. This indicates that elderberry may also help prevent the flu
from taking hold, so if your not sick yet go get some elderberry syrup and boost your immune system. Elderberry is generally safe for everyone including children and the elderly.
You can find elderberry syrup at your local health food store or you can even make elderberry syrup at home, try Wellness Mama’s recipe
for general immune boosting or when your hit with the flu.
Eucalyptus essential oil
is well known for its antibacterial, antiseptic, disinfecting and expectorant properties. The oil is used for colds, flu, coughs, congestion, sinusitis, respiratory infections, skin and throat infections, inflammation, sores, wounds and even as a natural insect repellent.
Lavender oil is extensively used for various respiratory problems including throat infections, flu, cough, cold, asthma
, sinus congestion, bronchitis
, whooping cough, laryngitis, and tonsillitis. The oil is either used in the form of vapor or applied on the skin of neck, chest and back. It is also added in many vaporizers and inhalers used for cold and coughs.
You can make a great flu fighting rub by mixing coconut oil with eucalyptus oil and lavender oil. Rub on chest and back periodically or as needed. Safe for everyone, including your kids.
Has a purifying effect on the nasal passages and helps the body heal itself.
Here’s a popular nasal irrigation recipe that you can try at home:
- Mix 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon baking soda in 8 ounces of warm water.
- Use a bulb syringe to squirt water into the nose.
- Learning over the bathroom sink, hold one nostril closed by applying light finger pressure while squirting the salt mixture into the other nostril. Let it drain and gently blow your nose.
- Repeat 2-3 times and then treat the other nostril.
You can also use a Neti Pot for nasal saline irrigation. A Neti pot is a ceramic container that looks like a genie’s magic lamp and is available at most natural foods stores.
- Fill the Neti pot with the saline solution (see recipe above).
- Leaning over the bathroom sink, tilt your head to one side and pour the solution directly into one nostril with the Neti pot.
- The solution will go into your nasal cavity and run out the other nostril and the back of your throat.
- Spit out the drainage, and gently blow your nose to clear your nasal passages.
According to the CDC, if you are irrigating, flushing, or rinsing your sinuses, use distilled, sterile or previously boiled water to make up the irrigation solution. It’s also important to rinse the irrigation device after each use and leave open to air dry.
Benefits of Alternative Treatments
The above treatments are safe and free from side effects, unlike the flu shot or conventional anti-viral drugs. In addition to the above recommendations, getting adequate rest and plenty of fluids will aid your body in fighting off the flu.