In January 2013, Boston declared a health emergency because of the massive influx of flu sufferers into its ER’s. Many of the people seeking aid and relief were dehydrated, as well as experiencing flu symptoms, and many had already received the flu shot.
The flu shot is not a guarantee against contracting the flu. It only gives you a 60% chance that you will be protected from it. As time goes on, the virus mutates and may become a strain that you are not protected from.
The CDC has stated that this was one of the worst flu seasons in a decade. I have to agree with this. It seems to me that in the last several years, flu season has been getting worse and worse. I don’t know why this is, but this concerns me.
An employee from Saratoga Hospital recently told me that in Dec 2013, all but one person suffering from flu-like symptoms, who came into the ER tested positive for flu. They believed that the one person who tested negative had a false negative result. Again, these positive test results included people who had already had the flu shot.
Many of my patients believe that because they have had the flu shot they are immune. Please know this is not true, you could have the flu even if you had the flu shot.
Here are some really useful facts regarding the flu:
There were two strains that were hot in 2013. The predominant flu strain circulating was Influenza A, H3N2, and can make you very ill, especially if you are elderly. Simultaneously, there was an outbreak of norovirus, commonly known as, “the stomach flu.” This can cause excessive diarrhea and strong vomiting.
If you are carrying the flu you are contagious, even before having symptoms.
If you have a stomach bug or norovirus, you are contagious for up to three days to two weeks after you feel better!
You are contagious for at least a day before manifesting symptoms and up to 7 days after you get sick.
Flu is spread through respiratory droplets, best administered to others during a cough or sneeze. Sneeze droplets hang out in the air for others to walk into and breathe.
From an Asian medicine standpoint, the range of symptoms you have and their severity may differ between people. So you and your roommate may both get sick, but you may manifest it differently than them. This is because your systems are different.
Get out of thinking you don’t need to be proactive in protecting yourself and others because it’s, “just allergies” or “not the flu.” I have had patients who insisted they just had allergies and ended up at the doctor's office with diagnoses of infections.
What to do
Protect yourself. How? This is what I do:
Assume that right now everyone is contagious including yourself.
Don’t breathe or talk onto anyone’s face! If you are a person who has close physical boundaries with others you need to create more distance. When I am needling people I actually hold my breath when I’m over their face/head just to be sure I’m not breathing into their nose or mouth.
Sneeze and cough INTO YOUR SLEEVE! Please, don’t sneeze or cough in your hand. I see so many people do this and then they touch the doorknobs, chairs, the counter, sink, the wall, pens, toilet flusher, etc. This spreads the germs for others to catch. We are like the anti flu brigade in the clinic. Every time someone comes in with even a sniffle we go around and disinfect the downstairs door, railing, all doorknobs, bathroom, counters, and air the room out. In addition, the sheets get changed. This is very time consuming and difficult to do when we are busy, but it gets done to protect you and us. If I am running behind lately this is usually why. It takes time to warm the room back up after the window has been opened.
WASH YOUR HANDS to the point of it feeling ridiculous! I wash my hands about 50 times a day when at work and I don’t feel like it, but I do it. If I can do it you can do it too. I have been trained in how not to spread or catch infections and this is the number one preventative. Don’t touch a menu and then eat finger foods. Don’t touch a doorknob and then touch your face. Don’t hug your friends if they are sick. Do not blow your nose and not wash your hands. These things are simple so we can easily make habits of them this time of year.
The ancient Egyptians wore wigs. This is because BUGS LOVE YOUR HAIR. And not just lice. Germs also stick to your hair, and your clothes. If you are exposed to flu in the office, go home and take a shower and put your clothes in the hamper. Don’t go to bed with your hair wet though.
If you encounter increased stress or start to feel tired, TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF. Stress lowers immunity. Change unnecessary appointments until you feel rejuvenated. Take a bath, meditate, go to bed early, slow down, and boost your immune system with a supplement, herbs, etc.
If you get sick
If you are on day one or two of body aches here’s what to do:
Make a hot tea or broth, preferably something with some kick to it, ie; ginger, cinnamon, etc.
Snuggle up from head to toe and stay bundled until you induce a sweat. Not a sauna sweat, but enough that you feel the need to change your clothes afterward. Stay warm, drink plenty of fluids, and rest for 24-48 hours. If done properly and at the right time, it is possible you will feel almost better the next day. My husband Mark and I have each had to do this, me more than once this season, and it works like a charm. All of the patients I have prescribed this to have felt almost 100% better in two days.
- Don’t go to work.
- Don’t go to public places.
- Wash your hands religiously.
- Sleep separately from your partner.
- Cough and sneeze into your sleeve.
- Don’t kiss or hug anyone.
According to a veterinarian I spoke with, it is possible to pass pathogens on to pets. I had a patient who came in last week with a stomach bug, who told me everyone in her house had it to varying degrees including her dog.
If you suspect you have the flu, acupuncture isn't the best treatment, you need herbs instead. Please call me, I will cancel your up coming appointment, and do a phone consult to prescribe herbs to you. Once your herbs are ready, come get them right away and start taking them A.S.A.P. The herbal formulas in Chinese Medicine are very effective and usually improve the symptoms right away, but will also help move the sickness out of your body in just a couple if days.
Lastly, always consult your doctor. These statements are not meant to imply that you don’t go to the doctor. This information is not intended as a substitute for allopathic diagnosis or treatment, and I am not trying to diagnose or treat any western medical condition. I diagnose and treat according to Chinese medical theory and according to it, colds and flu fall into the categories of wind, cold, and wind heat. I am just using western terminology because it is common to us all.
If you have any questions, please email or call the clinic at 538-6568 and I’m happy to answer what ever I can. Try not to text if you can help it. If you would like to learn more about natural Asian products and practices for winter wellness, please let us know. Thank you for taking the time to read this email.
Bridgette Kinder (owner of Ageless Acupuncture) is a Chinese Medicine practitioner and an Ayurvedic Practitioner, located in Saratoga Springs, NY. She graduated from Seattle Institute of Oriental Medicine in Aug 2008, and has been licensed and practicing acupuncture since September 2008.