How to fight off a cold or flu

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How to fight off a cold or flu

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How to fight off a cold or flu

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How to fight off a cold or flu

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Learn more about the flu and explore resources on how to treat the flu, common flu causes, and other related topics.

One day you’re fine. The next you have a scratchy throat, watery eyes, and a runny nose. There’s a tickle in the back of your throat, and your normal high energy is nowhere to be found.

Yes, these are early signs that you’re coming down with something. But don’t grab your tissue box and hop into bed just yet — there are ways to nip that cold in the bud.

Rest and Cut Your Stress

There’s a deep “mind-body” link at play when it comes to fighting off a cold, Estores says. If you feel tired, overworked, sad, or angry, those emotions can sink your mood. That can slow your immune system just when you need it running at full power to fight the cold virus.

Listen to your body when you feel a cold coming on. Get all the sleep you can. Get a handle on your stress — it can quickly send a cold into high gear. “When you’re stressed out, you’re more likely to get a cold,” Estores says.

Usually when you feel a cold coming on, your immune system jumps in and fights the virus. But too much stress cuts the number of cells that make up the front lines of defense. Stress also pumps up the level of cortisol in your body. This hormone zaps your immune system, and that makes you a prime target for a cold.

To give your immune system a charge, do something that relaxes you: Listen to music, meditate, or do a light workout. And don’t forget to rest, Estores says. Your body needs that, too.

Drink Up

It’s no fun to have to blow your nose or walk around with a head full of thick gunk. If this sounds like you, fluids are your friend. They’ll help unclog your nose and thin any mucus so you can cough or blow it out, says Jean Carstensen, MD, who teaches medicine and pediatrics at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.

Keep a full glass close by. Any fluid — besides alcohol — will count toward keeping you hydrated. But plain water is best, Carstensen says.

If you feel feverish, it’s time to give your elbow a workout. A fever drains even more body fluids through sweat or through your lungs (as you breathe) than you would normally, Carstensen says.

Sip Hot Tea and Honey

Mom had it right after all, Carstensen says. Drinking warm liquids helps to open up your stuffy nose and soothe a sore throat. Hot tea with a dollop of honey can help quiet a cough. But don’t give honey to children under a year old. It can make them very sick.

Act Fast

If you can’t hold off a cold, it’ll take for 5-7 days for your symptoms to improve, Carstensen says.

Getting an early jump on them on can help you manage them until you’re well, she says. Start with over-the-counter medications like antihistamines with decongestants. You can take pain medicine like ibuprofen and acetaminophen for aches and pains.

Show Sources

Irene M. Estores, MD, medical director, integrative medicine program, University of Florida Health System.

Jean C. Carstensen, MD, clinical instructor of internal medicine and pediatrics, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases: “Common Colds: Protect Yourself and Others.”

Cohen, S. Psychological Science, September 2003.

Harvard Health Publications: “Using the relaxation response to reduce stress.”

Cohen, S. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, April 2012.

You’ve got a cold and feel lousy. Maybe you already tried some over-the-counter meds. Time for something stronger, you think. Can antibiotics do the trick?

Here’s the plain truth: Colds are caused by viruses, and no antibiotic in the world can fight one. They only treat an infection that’s brought on by another small living thing — bacteria.

Why Taking Antibiotics for a Cold Can Be a Problem

It might not seem like you’re doing any harm if you take a medicine even though it doesn’t treat your cold, but it can. When people take antibiotics when they don’t have to, over time, the medicine becomes less effective. Someday you’ll really need one because you’ve got an illness caused by a bacteria, but it won’t work.

The reason has to do with the bacteria themselves. They can be sneaky. When they come into contact over and over with antibiotics, they may change in order to survive.

These new strains are “resistant” to some types of antibiotics. If you get an infection with one of these bacteria, your doctor may need to try several types of drugs until they find one that works. You could get a lot sicker while you wait for the one that can treat you.

Antibiotics also have side effects, some very serious. Minor problems include dizziness, vomiting, yeast infections and diarrhea, More serious problems include allergic reactions, difficulty breathing and damage to the colon as the result of infection growing in the body.

When Antibiotics Can Help

When they’re used the right way, antibiotics can save lives. For example, they can treat bronchitis, pneumonia, strep throat, ear infection, and pinkeye — as long as they’re caused by bacteria.

Sometimes, you get infected with a bacteria after you’ve got a cold. Some signs of bacterial sinus infection are pain around your face and eyes that may get worse when you bend over. You might also cough up thick, yellow or green mucus.

These symptoms may also occur with a cold. But if they last for more than a week or are severe, you may have a bacterial infection and need antibiotics.

Only your doctor can prescribe antibiotics. Talk to them if you think you might need them.

Continued

Take Antibiotics Responsibly

Here are three things to remember when you’re thinking about taking antibiotics:

Listen to your doctor. They’ll let you know if you’re sick because of a virus or a bacteria and will prescribe antibiotics if you need them.

Follow instructions carefully. Finish all the medicine your doctor asks you to take and stick to the schedule. If there are pills left when your treatment ends, don’t save them “just in case” you might get sick later on.

Don’t share medicine. Never give antibiotics to anyone else, and don’t take someone else’s drugs. They’re not the same. When you need one, it’s important that you take the right medicine for your condition.

Sources

CDC: “About Antibiotic Resistance.” “Be Antibiotics Aware: Smart Use, Best Care.”

National Jewish Medical and Research Center: “Getting Well When You Have a Cold or the Flu.”

Kristina Duda, BSN, RN, CPN, has been working in healthcare since 2002. She specializes in pediatrics and disease and infection prevention.

Jurairat J. Molina, MD, MBA is a board-certified allergist who has been practicing in field of allergy and clinical immunology for the past two decades.

Your immune system jumps into action to perform two jobs when you get a cold: Fight off the infection and help prevent it from affecting you again in the future. In doing this, it is responsible for most of the symptoms you experience when you catch the common cold, from a cough to congestion.

Tolerating cold symptoms might be a lot easier if you knew that you're both getting better and not going to get a cold again. But even with all of the work your immune system puts into fighting off a virus, at least the latter part of that is unlikely given just how many cold viruses you may come in contact with and what it takes for your immune system to be able to identify them.

How to fight off a cold or flu

What Happens When You Catch a Cold

The viruses that cause the common cold attach themselves to the cells that line your nasal passages and sinuses. They enter the cells and begin replicating. It takes about two days until they reach the point at which they trigger the body's reaction to fight off the virus.

The infected cells release chemical messengers, called cytokines, that set off an inflammatory reaction.   Blood vessels dilate to help an influx of white blood cells reach the area. This swelling contributes to stuffiness and pain in the affected airways. The white blood cells release even more chemicals to fight off the virus, resulting in more inflammation. Eventually, the excess fluid can result in a runny nose and cough.

The immune system is actually overreacting to the virus, as cold viruses don't cause the cell destruction that influenza viruses do.   The discomfort you feel due to sore throat, congestion, nasal discharge, and phlegm is primarily due to the effects of the immune response, not damage from the virus.

Developing Immunity to Colds

Your white blood cells become sensitized to the virus causing the infection and begin to produce antibodies.   These are proteins that attach to viral proteins and signal white blood cells to destroy the virus.

Some antibodies to that virus remain in your body long after the infection has resolved, and your body will make more of them if you are exposed to the same virus again. This will provide a faster response and possibly prevent the infection from occurring again.

However, there are an estimated 200 different cold viruses—and you will rarely face the same one twice.   The common cold is often caused by rhinoviruses. These viruses can also cause sinus infections and ear infections, and trigger asthma attacks. Other possible causes of a cold include respiratory syncytial virus, parainfluenza viruses, adenovirus, coronaviruses, and metapneumovirus.  

While you might indeed now be able to thwart re-infection with a virus you've already had, there is likely to be another in your future for which your body hasn't yet had a chance to develop an antibody defense.

Despite your immune response, you are likely to get two to three colds per year.  

Will There Ever Be a Common Cold Vaccine?

Vaccines are used to expose your immune system to viral or bacterial proteins and provoke antibody production without being exposed to the disease-causing organism itself.

The problem when it comes to the common cold is that each of the different viruses have unique sets of proteins. While it might be possible to make a vaccine to one cold virus, that wouldn't protect you against the other 199.

A Word From Verywell

Several factors can affect how well your immune system can fight back against the common cold and other illness, not the least of which is your general health, as some conditions (and treatments) can lower your immune response. Still, there are things you can do to support your immune system in its efforts. Among them: Following a nutritious diet, getting routine exercise, managing stress, and committing to about eight hours of sleep every night.

How to fight off a cold or flu

A. There’s no question that people need to be exposed to viruses in order to get sick. By definition, a cold is a viral upper respiratory infection, so no virus, no cold, said Dr. Stan Spinner, chief medical officer for Texas Children’s Pediatrics.

“There are a large number of viruses that can cause the common cold. That’s why we catch hundreds and hundreds of them throughout our lifetime,” he said.

People tend to link cold weather with colds, but that doesn’t mean there’s a cause and effect connection, Dr. Spinner said. “These viruses that cause us to catch a cold predominate during the winter months in this part of the world.”

Plus, cold weather keeps people inside more. “We’re more likely to be in close quarters this time of year, close together among those who are already sick,” Dr. Michael L. Munger, a practicing family physician in Overland Park, Kan., said in an email.

Home heating and humidity may also play a role in winter health, Dr. Spinner said. Running the heat to keep the house warm also dries it out — and can dry out our sinuses, too. “When you don’t have good nasal mucus flow, it’s harder for the immune system to work against the virus,” he said.

Research also suggests that low indoor humidity may promote the transmission of flu. With high humidity, flu viruses expelled in a sneeze, for example, tend to attach to water molecules and may drop out of the air before they can trigger a new infection. In a dry room, those flu viruses often continue to float around until they reach their next victim.

There are also some scattered laboratory studies that suggest being cold might weaken the immune system, making us more vulnerable to those viruses. A 2017 study found that immune cells that are chilled are less effective at fighting off viruses, at least in a lab dish, making it "easier for the virus to infect,” said Dr. Prasert Auewarakul, a co-author and professor of virology at the Faculty of Medicine Siriraj Hospital, Mahidol University in Thailand.

In a 2005 study by other researchers, college students whose feet were soaked in cold water for 20 minutes a day were more likely to get sick than those not exposed to the cold. And research in mouse cells suggests that rhinovirus, the common cold virus, replicates faster at cold temperatures, Dr. Auewarakul added.

Lauren Manaker, MS, RDN, LDN, CLEC, CPT, has studied nutrition for almost two decades. She was named an emerging leader in women's health by the National Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Marley Hall is a writer and fact checker who is certified in clinical and translational research. Her work has been published in medical journals in the field of surgery, and she has received numerous awards for publication in education.

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Key Takeaways

  • Not all "immune-boosting" supplements will help keep you healthy during cold and flu season.
  • The dietitians we spoke with only take certain supplements for immune support, and some are only taken once a cold or the flu sets in.

Cold and flu season is upon us, which for some means loading up on “immunity-boosting” supplements and remedies. While some people take supplements by the handful during this time of the year, nutrition experts tend to only keep a few key options in their medicine cabinet during the chillier months.

Since supplements are largely unregulated in the United States, non-food remedies that claim to prevent the flu or keep you healthy may overpromise and underdeliver. Yet supplement sales continue to climb, with revenue from vitamin and nutritional supplement production reaching nearly 31 billion dollars in the United States in 2018.  

So which supplements are worth the investment? While remaining mindful about the different nutritional needs and requirements unique to each person, we asked registered dietitians what they keep stocked in their own homes during cold and flu season.

Dietitians are all about evidence-based recommendations, so it's worthwhile to take a virtual peek into their medicine cabinets. Just make sure to get the green light from your doctor before you start any supplementation plan.

Vitamin D

One vitamin seemingly popular among the registered dietitian community is vitamin D. “Supplementation of vitamin D is critical to help ward off infections,” Brittany Scanniello, RD, a Colorado-based registered dietitian tells Verywell. In addition to assisting with calcium absorption and bone health, vitamin D’s role “includes effects on cell proliferation as well as immune-supporting effects,” she says.

Melissa Azzarro, RD, a New Hampshire-based registered dietitian and author of A Balanced Approach To PCOS, also takes vitamin D during the cold and flu season.

“Since I am indoors more often, my body is not making this important vitamin from sun exposure,” Azzarro tells Verywell, adding that adequate vitamin D levels support a healthy and functioning immune system.

Vitamin C

Along with vitamin D, Azzarro keeps additional vitamin C on hand during cold and flu season. “Although additional supplementation of this vitamin won't help me prevent getting sick, it has been shown to help reduce the duration of a cold,” she explains. Once a cold sets in, she pops a vitamin C along with her daily supplementation plan.

Zinc Lozenges

Whenever she feels under the weather, Azzaro turns to zinc lozenges. “If taken within the first day of illness, this supplement may reduce the duration of illness in some people,” she says. However, she cautions against taking zinc supplements every day along with a multivitamin, as multivitamins often already provide adequate amounts of this mineral.

Green Tea

While not technically a supplement, green tea is a staple in the home of Melissa Nieves, LND, RD, MPH, a registered dietitian and owner of FadFreeNutrition.com.

"Green tea is a great source of antioxidants that help keep the immune system healthy and help ward off flu viruses," Nieves tells Verywell. She says some of the ways tea catechins and polyphenols are thought to help impede influenza viral replication include:

  • Inhibiting the interaction of a virus with the cell membrane when it invades a cell
  • Increasing natural killer (NK) cell activity
  • Suppressing viral genome replication and viral protein expression

Garlic

Scanniello says while she loves garlic as an immune-supporting food, eating it every day is not realistic. “Since a compound found in garlic has been shown to support the disease-fighting response of some white blood cells in the body when fighting a cold or the flu, I like to make sure that my body is fueled up when we enter cold and flu season," she says. "An allicin-containing garlic supplement has its place in my regimen from October through April.”

Elderberry

Another supplement found in Azzarro’s home during the colder months is elderberry. However, she only takes it once she feels the onset of illness. “Since the data suggests that taking elderberry can reduce flu symptoms, I am all about it,” Azzarro says.

Probiotic

Probiotics, or live and active bacteria, are a wellness go-to for Whitney Gingerich, MA, RD, an Indiana-based registered dietitian. She takes probiotics consistently during cold and flu season. Certain strains of probiotics offer therapeutic potential for viral infection.  

Medicinal Mushrooms

From coffee to candies, there is no shortage of medicinal mushroom products on the market. Scanniello incorporates these into her diet, especially during the winter season.

“Medicinal mushrooms have been shown to impact our immune systems in a positive way,” Scanniello says. “They can help keep our immune system in balance—stimulating it when there is something to fight. I often aim for medicinal mushroom 'blends' as each mushroom has its own benefit and its own immunomodulating effects.”

Scanniello adds a blend of Chaga, Turkey tail, reishi, maitake, lions mane, cordyceps, and shiitake via powder to her daily smoothie. “All of these have been shown to have immune-balancing effects and are full of antioxidants,” she says.

What This Means For You

Knowing what registered dietitians are taking to help keep themselves healthy may help guide you on your own supplement selection. Just make sure your doctor approves of any supplementation plan before you start.

People swear this “secret” drink helps ease cold and flu symptoms, so we asked a nutritionist to weigh in.

When a secret off-the-menu Starbucks item makes the transition to the regular menu, you know it must be popular. That’s precisely what happened with the supposedly cold and flu-fighting “medicine ball,” which Starbucks refers to as Honey Citrus Mint Tea. The chain’s enthusiasts swear by it as a remedy to ease cold and flu symptoms, or even fend them off entirely. Question is, does it really live up to the hype? Here’s my take as a nutritionist.

I personally hadn’t heard about the medicine ball, but based on its nickname, I thought the ingredients would be similar to the so called immunity shots popular at juiceries, Whole Foods, and other health food stores. These mini bottles, typically two ounces in size, are loaded with ingredients known to support immunity and reduce inflammation, like ginger, turmeric, pepper, or even garlic.

The Starbucks version is actually a 16 ounce hot tea—Jade Citrus Mint and Peach Tranquility herbal teas to be exact—mixed with steamed lemonade (which is the first ingredient, according to the company’s website) and two packets of honey. The tea is made from a combination of organic green tea, organic spearmint, organic lemon verbena and lemongrass, as well as an infusion of ingredients like apple and peach pieces, candied pineapple, chamomile, and rose hips.

It sounds delicious. But in my opinion, relying on it as a cold and flu elixir has pros and cons. Studies have shown that natural compounds found in green tea reduce inflammation, support immunity, and offer antiviral and antibacterial properties. Drinking a hot liquid can also soothe a sore throat. And the steam can help open up stuffed nasal passages and support drainage, which may offer some sinus relief.

Chamomile tea has also been tied to an increase in antibacterial activity in the body, and it supports sleep, which also protects immunity. Honey can boast some cold and flu-busting benefits, too. It is anti-inflammatory, has been shown to ease a sore throat and reduce coughing (when consumed as is, in place of cough syrup), and it may help fight bacteria and viruses. All in all, some good stuff in this drink may ease unpleasant symptoms and bolster immunity.

Now for the not so good news. The medicine ball is loaded with sugar. The lemonade contains it, as does the honey, which add up to a whopping 30 grams total, or 7.5 teaspoons. That’s one and a half teaspoons over the recommended maximum of six teaspoons of added sugar daily for women—and that's just in this one drink.

I also don’t like that it contains artificial flavoring, and the honey isn’t the raw, organic variety. The exact type of honey or processing method, which does impact the quality and healthfulness, isn’t specified. The honey packets also contain potassium sorbate, an artificial preservative. To scope these thing out, always read through the ingredient list. I’m hoping that in the near future, Starbucks will make a commitment to nixing all artificial additives.

In the meantime, here’s the bottom line: Drinking one Honey Citrus Mint Tea a day probably won’t prevent you from catching germs going around the office or while traveling. And it packs a serious dose of sugar. But if you’re feeling miserable and still trying to power through work or errands, popping into a Starbucks to grab this drink may help. (Tip: Opt for one honey packet instead of two).

Can't get to Starbucks? DIY it and make your own medicine ball drink at home. Steep organic green, chamomile, mint, and turmeric teas, add some fresh grated ginger, a teaspoon of either raw organic honey or pure maple syrup, and a pinch of black pepper (the latter is needed in order to absorb the beneficial curcumin found in turmeric).

Above all, eat your veggies, prioritize rest and sleep, and practice proper handwashing (the number one most effective way to prevent catching a cold or flu).

Cynthia Sass, MPH, RD, is Health's contributing nutrition editor, a New York Times best-selling author, and a private practice performance nutritionist who has consulted for five professional sports teams.

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As the calendar pages fall away and autumn creeps toward winter, we slog through the inevitable cold and flu season. You know those first, scratchy-throated signs that a cold has taken hold. And you know you’re in for about a week’s worth of unshakeable symptoms – a dry, sore throat, stuffed-up nose, and coughing and sneezing fits. Want to make sure to get in on all that fun? Here are some surefire ways to catch a cold:

  • Become a sneeze guard. Cold viruses get spread around by mucus and saliva flung out of the body by sneezes and coughs. Thus, if you really want to catch a cold, try standing downwind of someone who already has one.
  • Touch everything and never wash your hands. While most cold germs are airborne, many get passed around on our hands. Thoroughly washing your hands or using hand sanitizers will remove many of the germs, but cold viruses can lurk anywhere hands have touched: door knobs, toilet flushers, telephones, bus or subway poles, other people’s cell phones, and shopping cart handles. The machines at the gym and the buttons on the ATM, too. So touch everything – especially your nose and mouth!
  • Stick your nose out. Temperatures drop and you bundle up in coats, scarves, and gloves, but your nose often gets left out in the cold. One catch-a-cold theory goes that when your nose is cold, you become less resistant to infection.
  • Walk barefoot in the cold. Your grandma may have warned you about "catching your death of cold" if you dared go out outside with a wet head in wintertime. Well, it seems your grandma may be at least partly right. You see, many of us carry cold viruses around with us all the time, but we just don’t always show the symptoms. Researchers at Cardiff University in Wales suggest that when the feet are cold, blood vessels in the nose constrict. This then makes it tough for your nose to fight off the virus and cold symptoms kick into high gear. So it seems like we just "caught" a cold, but it had been there waiting for a chill all the time.
  • Hang out in the city. Cities are packed full of virus carriers – building ventilation systems, people walking or riding on buses and in cars, children going to and from school, and people crossing paths in hospitals, malls, and any number of other public gathering places.
  • Stress out. Want a cold? Worry! Get anxious! It’s thought that tension can make you less resistant to infection.
  • Stop aging. With age comes wisdom, and this is true with your immune system, too. With every cold you battle, your immune system creates more and more antibodies and becomes smarter at handling new viruses that come along.
  • Be human. No wonder it’s called the common cold: Over two hundred different viruses float around and infect us humans every year, causing those familiar, unpleasant symptoms. Adults suffer an average of 2 to 5 colds each year, while kids experience 7 to 10 sniffle-and-sneeze episodes.

In all seriousness, it is tough to fend off all of the viruses that create cold symptoms. But you can lower your risk by turning all of those tips on their head – well, except for those last two!

How to fight off a cold or flu

We all want to avoid the chills, aching muscles, headache and fever brought on by flu. Or at least shorten the time we spend in bed with it.

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So the antiviral drug oseltamivir (Tamiflu®), which helps your body bounce back faster from flu, holds a lot of appeal.

Researchers find that taking Tamiflu within 48 hours of symptom onset can shave approximately one day from a typical seven-to-10-day illness. A more recent study showed that in patients 65 years old and older (who had more severe illness and other health conditions), up to two to three days could be shaved off using Tamiflu.

Tamiflu interferes with the proteins the flu virus uses to reproduce, giving your immune system time to destroy it. However, this drug isn’t for everyone. Here, Matthew Faiman, MD, answers key questions about the pros and cons of Tamiflu:

Q: Who are the best candidates for this antiviral medication?

A: The best candidates are people at risk of complications from the flu because their immune system doesn’t work well. For example, I would consider prescribing this medication to those who have:

  • Diabetes.
  • Asthma or other respiratory disorders.
  • Liver, blood or neurological conditions.
  • Heart disease or chronic kidney disease.

It is also a possible option for those who are significantly overweight.

Q: What are the potential complications of the flu for these patients?

A: About seven days after flu symptoms begin, people with compromised immune systems or the conditions listed above are at risk of developing a secondary bacterial infection. In some cases, this can put them in the hospital. Using Tamiflu to help shorten the flu also reduces their risk of contracting pneumonia.

Q: Why would low-risk people want to take Tamiflu?

A: Some people would say it is worth taking this medication to reduce the time they’re sick, even if it’s only by a day or so. They look at it as a way to get back to work sooner. It may also reduce their risk of infecting others — like young children or older adults, especially during a flu epidemic.

Q: Are there any downsides to taking this medication?

A: Typically, Tamiflu costs between $35 and $45, depending on your insurance. And the potential side effects can include moderate to modest nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. So you have to weigh how much that one day means to you. Also, Tamiflu doesn’t work on bacterial infections. And it’s not a substitute for the flu vaccine.

Q: How do you get Tamiflu?

A: You can only get this medication by visiting your healthcare provider within 48 hours of feeling any symptoms. Once prescribed, patients take it twice a day for five days.

Q: How do you know your symptoms are caused by flu vs. a cold?

A: The usual symptoms people would recognize as the flu include a very high fever, sore throat, muscle aches, cough, headache and maybe even a runny nose. Your typical common cold might involve a runny nose and cough, but it will not cause a high fever or muscle and body aches that come on very quickly.

Q: If you’re not a candidate for Tamiflu, can other options help?

A: I recommend lots of fluids and rest. Chicken soup, hot tea and honey are fine too, but these options have no scientific basis. They’re more for comfort.

What is most important is hydration. Drink, drink, drink, drink, drink. Make sure you control your fever. I suggest alternating acetaminophen, which is generic Tylenol®, and a generic anti-inflammatory, such as Advil® or Motrin®. Then you just need to give it time, because flu can linger.

An ounce of prevention

But better than any remedy is taking steps to avoid the flu. “If people can prevent the flu first and foremost by getting the flu vaccine, they do themselves a much greater service,” says Dr. Faiman.

That’s the most important message for flu season, he believes: Get the influenza vaccine each year. It helps you stay well and helps everyone around you, too. Sick people won’t pass the virus on to family, friends, coworkers, or patients and staff at the doctor’s office.

And getting a flu shot won’t keep you in bed, missing work and miserable, for days at a time. Across the country, those sick days add up, costing billions of dollars in lost productivity each year.

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Background: An ever increasing demand to evaluate the effect of dietary supplements on specific health conditions by use of a “significant scientific” standard has prompted the publication of this study.

Objective: To study the effect of megadose Vitamin C in preventing and relieving cold and flu symptoms in a test group compared with a control group.

Design: Prospective, controlled study of students in a technical training facility.

Subjects: A total of 463 students ranging in age from 18 to 32 years made up the control group. A total of 252 students ranging in age from 18 to 30 years made up the experimental or test group.

Method: Investigators tracked the number of reports of cold and flu symptoms among the 1991 test population of the facility compared with the reports of like symptoms among the 1990 control population. Those in the control population reporting symptoms were treated with pain relievers and decongestants, whereas those in the test population reporting symptoms were treated with hourly doses of 1000 mg of Vitamin C for the first 6 hours and then 3 times daily thereafter. Those not reporting symptoms in the test group were also administered 1000-mg doses 3 times daily.

Results: Overall, reported flu and cold symptoms in the test group decreased 85% compared with the control group after the administration of megadose Vitamin C.

Conclusion: Vitamin C in megadoses administered before or after the appearance of cold and flu symptoms relieved and prevented the symptoms in the test population compared with the control group.