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Preventing the flu blues

Gerald W. Deas M.D., MPH | 11/14/2013, 3:46 p.m.
Where to get your flu shot in NYC

Well, the sneeze and sore throat season is upon us with a vengeance. I don’t know about you, but even I have had an unexplained cough with a tickle in my throat. I could never understand why these symptoms are called “having a cold.” Generally, what you really have is an infection caused by a virus, which does not respond to antibiotics. Often, some hot chicken broth with plenty of onions and garlic can relieve symptoms.

The cold virus is usually put to rest by “killer cells” produced by our body’s magnificent immune system. It is therefore very important to keep the immune system healthy by taking nutrients such as vitamin A (beta-carotene), found in all colored fruits and vegetables, as well as vitamin C and E. If your cold symptoms persist, they should be evaluated by your physician.

How does the virus get into your body? It was once thought that you would get a cold if someone sneezed in your face, but this is not the only or even the main cause. The virus most often enters the body by hand-to-face contact.

When your hand comes in contact with a handrail, subway pole, banister, shopping cart, television remote control, phone or even some else’s hand in greeting, the virus is often still alive and well. If your contaminated hand then touches the inner lining of your nose or eyes, the virus is easily transmitted.

To decontaminate your hands, wash them for at least 20 seconds in hot, sudsy water. Because parking attendants often contaminate car steering wheels, be sure to always wipe the wheel down afterward with antiseptic wipes or a dilute solution of bleach and water.

Finally, seniors, be very careful when kissing that beautiful, runny-nosed grandchild. Those tears and noses are loaded with cold viruses. It seems that children get over these symptoms faster than the elderly.

More advice to the elders

  • Early viral infections can be slowed down with over-the-counter drugs such as Tamiflu or Relenza. These drugs must be taken 48 hours before flu symptoms appear. Also, consult your doctor before taking these drugs.
  • To protect yourself from the flu virus infection, vaccinations should be done in October. Many of your neighborhood drugstores are capable of giving flu shots.
  • Try to get some sun.
  • Fortify your body with vitamin C, fresh fruits and multicolored vegetables.
  • In the event that you begin to experience flu symptoms such as diarrhea, nausea, fever and chest pains, see your doctor.
  • Avoid alcoholic beverages and highly sweetened drinks, which suppress your immune system.

Remember: You don’t have to suffer the flu blues if you stay aware of some of the above clues!