Almost everyone gets a cold during the winter months and for the majority of cold-sufferers, rest, fluids, and over-the-counter medications are enough to help them recover. But winter sickness can mean something more serious for the 5-20% of US residents that come down with the flu each season, with approximately 200,000 hospitalizations attributed annually to flu-related complications.
Flu season starts as early as October and can last through April, for this reason, we recommend that you get vaccinated against the flu without delay if you haven’t done so already. We recommend preservative free flu vaccine.
Basic Flu Prevention Recommendations
In addition to getting a flu shot, there are other precautions that you can take to lower your risk of contracting the flu, or to shorten the duration of any respiratory illness.
Dr. Kaplan offers the following basic flu-prevention steps:
- Get a preservative free flu shot.
- Wash your hands often and thoroughly.
- Keep unwashed hands away from your mouth and eyes.
- Use a friendly cleaner to wipe down doorknobs, phones, your mouse, and keyboards.
- Get plenty of sleep (7-9 hours is optimal for most).
- Drink plenty of fluids – Water is needed for your body to clear toxins and helps to thin secretions
- Make wise nutritional choices, including limiting your consumption of alcohol, refined carbohydrates, and sugar, all of which lower immune system functioning.
- Take 5000 IU’s of Vitamin D3 daily. Have your Vitamin D-25-Hydroxy level checked every 3 months and aim for a level between 50 – 80.
- Exercise regularly, preferably outdoors. Exercise is great for an immune system boost.
- Take some deep breaths and meditate, it can boost your immune system significantly.
- Increase intake of probiotics. 70-80% of your immune system cells are found in the gut. Certain probiotic strains have been shown to reduce the risk of acquiring common cold infections so take a high quality probiotic or better yet, include fermented foods in your diet. Ask your doctor how to start to include these in your diet or supplement regimen.
- Talk to your doctor about whether periodic vitamin IV’s would be right for you.
Supplements for Prevention
The following supplements can strengthen your body’s immune system to help prevent getting sick. Check with your doctor to see which ones are right for you.
- Oscillococcinum – ½ a tube a week through the flu season (October – April).
- Monolaurin – 2 pills twice a day through the flu season.
- Colostroplex – nourishes and supports and the immune system. Supplementation with bovine colostrum has been found to lower flu occurrence and duration.
- High quality multivitamin such as Innate Response “One Daily” or Pure Encapsulations “ONE.”
- Astra Essence* – helps strengthen the immune systems of people who have suffered significant immune system degeneration due to severe illness or invasive medical procedures such as radiation and chemotherapy.
- Astra C* – promotes the production of secretory IGA – an antibody that fights infection on the mucous membranes of the human nose.
- Astra 8* – recommended for those with a history of recurrent lung problems. Astra 8 is also suggested for patients who have chronic fatigue.
*NOTE: Do NOT take more than one of the “Astra” products simultaneously. Astra supplements are used for prevention and should be used when you are well. If you start to get sick stop taking all Astra supplements.
Treatment Strategies If You Do Get Sick
- Vitamin IVs – intravenous vitamin therapy provides a quick and vigorous boost to the immune system, helping to shorten the duration of acute illnesses such as the common cold and flu.
- Herbal Treatments – we recommend herbal remedies such as Dispel Invasion, Sambucol, and Isatis Gold for treatment of symptoms associated with cold and flu to strengthen the immune system. These herbal remedies are most effective when taken at the first sign of cold symptoms. However, these products should not be taken together or in conjunction with other medications without consulting a physician first.
- Homeopathic Treatments – in addition to preventing flu infection, we recommend the homeopathic remedies Oscillococcinum and Umcka when cold and flu symptoms are present. This product helps strengthen the immune system without causing drowsiness and is most effective when taken at the first sign of cold symptoms.
- Zinc Lozenges – there is good evidence that zinc in lozenge form reduces the severity of symptoms of the common cold.
- Vitamin C – this powerful immune-system booster can shorten the duration of common colds and should be taken as soon as you feel that you may be coming down with a respiratory illness.
There’s a lot you can do to minimize your risk of flu or respiratory illness but prevention from infection isn’t guaranteed. Therefore, if you do develop flu-like symptoms this winter, make sure to see your physician right away to discuss the most effective treatment options available.
Originally published on January 12, 2016. Updated December 19, 2018.