In the United States, “flu season” occurs during fall and winter. The exact timing and duration of flu seasons can vary, but influenza activity often begins to increase in October. Flu activity typically peaks between December and February, but activity can last as late as May, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The CDC is pushing hard for everyone to get the flu vaccination, but due to the flawed science behind the egg-based manufacturing process and the 2017-18 botched flu vaccination, many doubt it’s really worth it. Fortunately, there are things you can do to reduce your risk of contracting the flu, but we will get to that later in this article.
US health officials are trying to get ahead of the flu this year to avoid a tragic recurrence of the 2017-2018 flu season, which the CDC claims led to 900,000 hospitalizations and 80,000 deaths, including 180 children. So many people caught the flu that it was at epidemic levels and some hospitals and pharmacies across the US ran out of antiviral drugs like Tamiflu.
According to a recent article published by Bloomberg, the flu vaccine is expected to be more accurate this season. In the Southern Hemisphere, influenza activity hasn’t been too bad so far, which is a good sign for the US and Canada, the article says.
However, it is still too early to predict what things will be like once the virus starts spreading. The only thing that is predictable about the flu is its unpredictability.
Amesh Adalja, a senior scholar at Johns Hopkins University Center for Health Security, warns:
“It really exposed how vulnerable we are. It seems like we’re in a better position this year. But it’s the flu and it can do a lot of tricky things, so we won’t know for sure until the season begins in earnest.”
Bloomberg’s report also notes that vaccine science is “flawed”:
Drugmakers still grow vaccines in chicken eggs – a technique developed in the 1940s. Eggs don’t support all virus types and allow for mutations in the ones they do. The process takes at least six months, allowing time for circulating viruses to change and adapt.
Bruce Clark, the chief executive officer of Medicago, a company that owns the first plant-based seasonal flu vaccine to reach late-stage clinical trials, explains that “Human viruses were never meant to grow in eggs. The basic technology of growing vaccines in eggs has been a solution historically because we had no other options.”
Egg-related complications are what led to problems with the 2017-2018 season’s vaccines, according to Nathalie Landry, Medicago’s senior vice president of research and development. That’s because certain types of H3N2 can’t be grown in eggs without mutations that make vaccines less effective.
What is the CDC doing to help people prepare for this flu season?
Promoting vaccination, mostly – take a look at the agency’s Frequently Asked Flu Questions 2018-2019 Influenza Season and you’ll see an abundance of information about all the different vaccination options that are available, which viruses they will protect against, when to get vaccinated, and information on how many people get sick (and die) from the flu each year.
The agency does have a page that is dedicated to other ways people can avoid the flu called Preventing the Flu: Good Health Habits Can Help Stop Germs. Here, one can find useful common sense guidelines, like:
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick
- Stay home when you are sick
- Cover your mouth and nose
- Clean your hands
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth
- Practice other good health habits
While “practice other good health habits” is wise advice, unfortunately, the CDC does not elaborate other than this blurb:
Get plenty of sleep, be physically active, manage your stress, drink plenty of fluids, and eat nutritious food.
Perhaps an agency called the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention should put a lot more emphasis on educating the public on prevention.
What YOU can do to prepare for the flu season
Rather than relying on a government health agency to guide you, there are steps you can take to better prepare your family through flu season.
Boosting your immune system before a virus has had a chance to invade is far easier than bringing your health back from a full-on flu assault.
The common-sense flu prevention tips offered by the CDC and listed above are certainly useful, but there’s a LOT more you can do.
In the article The Flu Fighting Arsenal: 5 Ways to Naturally Stop the Flu Dead In Its Tracks, Tess Pennington explains that “the best defense is a natural one”, and discusses how to boost your immune system and add some natural flu preventatives to your flu arsenal. Eating a healthful diet, drinking plenty of water, taking vitamins to supplement your diet, and getting plenty of good quality sleep can all help you stay healthy during cold and flu season.
Vitamin C and Zinc, in particular, are helpful immune-boosters. Since our bodies do not naturally make Vitamin C, we need to get it through supplementation in order to boost our bone, muscle, cartilage and vascular health. The best way to get Vitamin C is right from the source. Rather than taking a GMO vitamin, make your own vitamin C powder.
Should the flu descend upon your family despite your best efforts to avoid it, there are things you can do to reduce your suffering.
First, let’s review flu symptoms as a refresher.
Symptoms generally include:
- Fever* or feeling feverish/chills
- Sore throat
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Muscle or body aches
- Fatigue (tiredness)
- Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in children than adults.
* It’s important to note that not everyone with flu will have a fever.
Natural flu remedies
While none of these remedies will actually “cure” the flu, they can ease your symptoms and aid healing.
Homemade elderberry syrup: Elderberries have a long history of use for colds and flu. Studies suggest that elderberry extract may offer potent anti-virus-fighting, immune-boosting, and anti-inflammatory effects. Research has found that not only can elderberry ease symptoms for those with the flu, but it can also help prevent influenza infection. To make your own elderberry syrup, try this recipe.
Herbal teas and tinctures offer an abundance of medicinal benefits. You can buy herbs and organic raw unfiltered honey in bulk, and you’ll have plenty leftover to make more syrup throughout the flu season.
Here is a list of great herbs to add to your natural medicine cabinet:
Add honey, lemon, ginger syrup to herbal teas.
Essential oils can also be used for assisting in relieving a myriad of medical ailments associated with the flu. Some more popular ways of using essential oils are aromatherapy, herbal soaks, compresses, tinctures, and salves.
You can make a steam bath and add a few drops of essential oil. The steam helps to loosen mucus and acts as a carrier to help the essential oil quickly alleviate flu-like symptoms.
Herb Infused Face Steam
This soothing face steam will help loosen congestion and kill viruses and bacteria in the lungs, bronchials and sinuses.
- 2 cup boiling water
- 2 drops thyme
- 2 drops rosemary
- 2 drops oregano
Cover pot for 5 minutes and then put face directly over pot with a towel covering your head. Breathe in the steam for up to 15 minutes.
Another way to create a soothing steam bath is by adding essential oils in bath blocks.
Don’t wait until flu season is in full swing to prepare: the flu comes on fast and furious, and you probably won’t feel like running out to pick up supplies when you are coughing, aching, and sniffling.