Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Swine Flu: How to protect yourself

Surprising to some, swine flu infects people every year and is found typically in people who have been in contact with pigs, although there have been cases of person-to-person transmission. 

There is no research that can predict who is at risk and who is not. What the history of  previous Influenza pandemics has indicated is that patients who had the greatest mortality were those whose immune system over-reacted after the initial Influenza virus infection. 

Signs and Symptoms: 

 - fever*, cough, shortness of breath, sore throat, disorientation, chills and fatigue (*Please note: some people such as the elderly and people who are immune compromised may not develop a fever). 

 - Some people have reported stiffness of the joints, diarrhea and vomiting. 

 - In severe cases it can result in loss of consciousness that can end in death. 


How does swine flu spread?  

 - Spread of swine influenza A (H1N1) happens from person-to-person in the same way that seasonal flu spreads (through coughing or sneezing)

 - Swine flu is contagious 1 day before symptoms develop and up to 7+ days after becoming sick.  

Naturopathic Approaches are valuable in both prevention and treatment 

1) Hygiene  

 - Cover nose and mouth with a tissue when coughing or sneezing 

 - Cough or sneeze into sleeve or jacket of bent arm rather than into closed fist or open hand (be courteous of others around you, especially on public transit!)

 - Wash hands often with soap and water, especially after a cough or sneeze 

 - Avoid close contact with sick people  


2) Lifestyle 

 - Ensure adequate rest 

 - Wash hands with soap frequently during the day 

 - Walk and do stretching exercises to boost the immune system 

 - Dry skin brushing and hot/cold showers (ending your daily showers with a blast of cold water) can be useful to support optimal lymphatic system function

 - Remember that ‘emotional’ stress, fear and worry can depress the immune system. Try yoga, stretching and breathing exercises

 - Allow a mild to moderate fever (you read that right!) A fever of 1-3 degrees above normal 37.5 C has a profound effect on immune modulation and optimizes health

3) Naturopathic Treatment Recommendations 

The Influenza virus must cross mucosal membrane barriers (the nose, the mouth, the eyes...) to cause disease. The integrity and therefore, protective quality of these barriers can be enhanced through the use of the following:  

 - Avoid foods that stress the gastrointestinal system. This would include reducing: sugar, refined foods, food additives, fried foods and trans-fatty acids. 

 - Maximize dietary choices that help build the gastrointestinal tract and enhance the 

integrity of the mucosal membrane. For example: proteins

 - Fruits and veggies provide vitamins and minerals needed for immune system function 

 - Water - Ensure a minimum of 8 glasses of pure water a day 

Other Naturopathic Modalities that are helpful include: Nutraceuticals, Botanicals, Acupuncture and Homeopathy. Your ND can advise the best way to keep your body and immune system healthy and whole. 

It is the body's terrain, not the pathogen itself that causes disease to manifest. 

*information modified from CAND newsletter and its contributors*

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