Are you feeling the pressure to get the untested H1N1 vaccine in order to prevent swine flu? Any time a vaccine is rushed to market the way this one was there is a greater risk to the general population, besides having little proof of its efficacy.
We are holding firm in our family and are determined not to get this dangerous vaccine, or the regular flu shot, either. Instead, we are opting for preventing the flu and swine flu with natural remedies and common sense hygiene practices.
Dr. Vinay Goyal is an MBBS,DRM,DNB (Intensivist and Thyroid specialist) with more than 20 years of clinical experience. He has worked in institutions like Hinduja Hospital, Bombay Hospital, Saifee Hospital, Tata Memoria, etc. Presently, he heads the Nuclear Medicine Department and Thyroid clinic at Riddhivinayak Cardiac and Critical Centre in Malad, India.
Dr. Goyal notes that the only portals of entry for the virus are the nostrils and mouth/throat. In a global epidemic of this nature, it’s almost impossible to avoid coming into contact with H1N1 in spite of all precautions. Contact with H1N1 is not so much of a problem as the proliferation of the virus in your body can be.
In order to prevent proliferation of the virus, aggravation of symptoms, and development of secondary infections, you can take some very simple steps while you are still healthy and not showing any symptoms of H1N1 infection. Instead of focusing on how to stock N95 or Tamiflu, consider these preventative measures and avoid the whole shebang.
1. Frequent hand-washing (this practice is well highlighted in all official communications from the medical community). In our house, washing your hands comes immediately after removing your shoes in the entryway. Just as shoes track germs from the outside world in through your house, your hands will bring in anything you’ve touched and deposit it on your doorknobs, fridge handle, computer keyboard, etc. Wash your hands before you touch anything or anybody.
2. “Hands-off-the-face” approach. Resist all temptations to touch any part of face (unless you want to eat, bathe or slap), recommends Dr. Goyal. Slap? Slapping may be more common in other cultures than our own, but we have a rule against that, too, in our house. Not touching your face is a good habit to get into anyway since your fingers can deposit dirt and grime along with bacteria and viruses, all of which can give you some pretty nasty breakouts. So no hands on the face.
3. Gargle twice a day with warm salt water (use Listerine if you don’t trust salt). H1N1 takes 2-3 days after initial infection in the throat/ nasal cavity to proliferate and show characteristic symptoms. Simple gargling prevents proliferation. In a way, gargling with salt water has the same effect on a healthy individual that Tamiflu has on an infected one. Don’t underestimate this simple, inexpensive and powerful preventative method.
4. Similar to 3 above, clean your nostrils at least once every day with warm salt water. Not everybody may be good at Jala Neti or Sutra Neti (very good Yoga asanas to clean nasal cavities), but blowing the nose hard once a day and swabbing both nostrils with cotton buds dipped in warm salt water is very effective in bringing down viral population. Personally, I’m a fan of Sinus Rinse and use it all the time to stay healthy.
5. Boost your natural immunity with foods that are rich in Vitamin C. Some good ones are kiwis, strawberries, citrus fruits, acai berries, and rosehips. If you have to supplement with Vitamin C tablets, make sure that it is a full-spectrum C (not just ascorbic acid) and also has Zinc to boost absorption.
6. Drink as much of warm liquids (tea, coffee, etc) as you can. Drinking warm liquids has the same effect as gargling, but in the reverse direction. They wash off proliferating viruses from the throat into the stomach where they cannot survive, proliferate or do any harm. Since it has decided to snow here already, this is not a problem for me! 🙂
To Dr. Goyal’s list let me add a few more disease prevention remedies I have found work well to stay healthy during flu season:
7. Take probiotics regularly. When I start my kids off with a shot of Good Belly probiotic drink every day I notice they miss fewer days of school and are generally healthier.
8. Don’t skimp on sleep. A run-down body is more susceptable to colonization by detrimental agents like viruses.
9. Wash towels and sheets regularly in unscented detergent. Artificial fragrances can irritate sinus cavities and make them more hospitable environments for germs to thrive.
10. If you start feeling sick, drink some garlic tea as soon as possible. Repeat as often as necessary until symptoms subside. Feel free to add some fresh ginger to the mix for an added anti-viral/antibacterial boost. Garlic tea has never failed me.
Now, let’s get out there and stay healthy!