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Influenza viruses, Do flu vaccines really work?

News - Health Articles

Today the CDC announced that the newest strain of flu, identified as H1N1, demonstrates different characteristics from previous influenza viruses. Their prediction? This year's flu season will be year round instead of clustered in one season, and the virus will disproportionally affect young people rather than the typical flu virus, which normally affects the elderly, the very young, and those with compromised immune systems more so than the young and fit.


Why flu vaccines rarely work

Influenza vaccines are created months in advance of whatever current virus strain is making its way around the office, school, or home. Scientists isolate the most likely viral strain and create vaccines based on that strain.

Viruses, however, don't always cooperate. Although researchers do their best to guess accurately, viruses can mutate or a different type of virus can become the season's flu epidemic. And that's why flu shots or influenza vaccines rarely work. They can build immunity to only the virus for which they are intended. If a person vaccinated against the flu encounters a different strain, the vaccine is useless. Should you get a flu shot? Only a physician can advise if you need a flu shot or not.


Alternative remedies and holistic medicine to boost the immune system

The best defense against influenza and the common cold is a strong immune system. Every day, people encounter millions of virus and bacteria. A strong immune system recognizes the invaders and destroys or neutralizes them before they can multiply and make a person sick.

Most of the following natural remedies work best before symptom onset. They help to prevent a virus such as the flu from taking over. At the first sign of a cold or flu, the best remedy is to tuck into bed with a cup of tea or chicken noodle soup and silly movies.  If symptoms include a fever over 104 degrees, severe vomitting, or anything that seems out of the ordinary, see a physician immediately.  Whatever you do, stay home from school or work - everyone will be grateful.

Natural methods to boost the immune system include:

  • Changes in diet to minimize white sugar consumption. Numerous laboratory experiments demonstrate reduced T cell function after ingesting sugar. This effect lasts several hours. The T cells are your body's soldiers against invading virus. White sugar, sugary foods and beverages appear to make the T cells weak or ineffective.
  • Get adequate sleep. Adults need 7-9 hours of sleep each night. Don't skimp on sleep. It's the body's time to refresh and renew.
  • Wash hands frequently. Plain old soap and warm water is just fine to wash away virus and other microbes.
  • Herbs to boost the immune system include echinacea.  Echinacea can be taken as a tincture or pill.  Do not use echinacea if you have an autoimmune disease or a compromised immune system.
  • At the first sign of sniffle or cold, use an herbal remedy such as slippery elm lozenges (available at stores in the Norfolk area such as Whole Foods) or zinc, echinacea and vitamin C lozenges.
  • Vitamins such as vitamin C may boost immune system response.


Before taking herbal supplements, consult an herbalist, naturopath or someone well versed in the proper dose and use of herbs. And if you have any medical condition, are pregnant, nursing or may be pregnant, don't take herbal remedies unless under the direction of a doctor or naturopathic physician

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