SWINE- FLU: PREVENTING H1N1 VIRUS
There is growing concern for everyone’s health and safety as the H1N1 virus (swine flu) becomes more widespread especially during winters. Swine flu is a respiratory disease of pigs caused by type ‘A’ influenza viruses. Normally, people are not affected by swine flu, but human infections can happen and as we have seen recently, have happened. H1N1 in particular is a unique combination of four different strains of influenza, of which two strains are swine flu, one is an avian flu, and one is a human flu.
SIGNS & SYMPTOMS
The symptoms of H1N1 flu include fever, cough, sore throat, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. Some people have reported diarrhoea and vomiting, as well. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) warn that people may be able to infect others beginning 1 day before symptoms develop and up to 7 or more days after becoming sick. That means that the flu is contagious before you even know you are sick, as well as while you are sick.
YOUR BODY AND IMMUNITY
Our bodies are under constant attack from microbes, allergens and environmental conditions, and it is the job of our immune system to serve as our protector or buffer against these elements. Given the recent flu outbreak and with allergy season upon us, supporting your immune system is more important than ever if you want to stay healthy. The best way to strengthen your immune system is with a comprehensive approach that involves healthy lifestyle practices, stress management, regular exercise, a healthy diet, and nutritional supplementation.Your immune system is greatly impacted by your dietary habits and nutritional status. Dietary factors that depress immune function include nutrient deficiencies, excess consumption of sugar and unhealthy fats, and the consumption of allergenic foods. Sugar can significantly reduce the ability of white blood cells to destroy foreign particles and microorganisms. The negative effects start within 30 minutes and last for over 5 hours. Optimal immune function requires a healthy diet that is rich in whole, natural foods – such as fruits, vegetables, grains, beans, seeds, and nuts – low in bad fats and refined sugars, contains adequate protein levels, and plenty of water and other fluids (soups, herb teas). Fresh, nourishing foods are great for your immune system. Think salads, soups and stews. Yogurt also provides important beneficial bacteria that helps to keep your digestive system and immune system healthy.
BOOST YOUR IMMUNE SYSTEM- CORE NUTRITION
Nutritional deficiencies are the most frequent cause of a depressed immune system. Therefore, we recommend that everyone incorporate the following 5 key supplements into their daily routine to build a solid foundation:
Unfortunately, even the best diet cannot protect you from nutrient deficiencies. Stress, poor food choices, and illnesses can further deplete your body of important nutrients. Support your body by giving it the nutrients it needs in order to function at its best. A good multivitamin provides a broad range of vitamins and minerals to fill in nutrient gaps in your diet and protect against nutrient deficiencies.
- Essential Fatty Acids (Omega-3 and Omega-6)
Healthy fats are necessary for good health, have anti-inflammatory properties, and cannot be manufactured by the body. Essential Fatty Acids support hormone balance, cardiovascular, reproductive, joint, brain, immune, and nervous system health.
Antioxidants are natural compounds that protect the body from harmful free radicals and play a role in disease prevention. Antioxidants protect the body’s tissues against stress and inflammation and enhance immune function.
A healthy immune system begins in the gastrointestinal tract. In fact, the digestive system produces up to 75 percent of the immune system's cells. Beneficial bacteria is vital for digestion, preventing the overgrowth of yeast and other pathogens, and for manufacturing B-complex vitamins and vitamin K.
- Vitamin D
Beyond its role in bone health, new research shows that vitamin D3 also improves immune function and can reduce the risk of some cancers, including breast cancer, prostate cancer, and colon cancer. Vitamin D also seems to play a role in cold and flu prevention.
BEYOND CORE NUTRITION
A healthy lifestyle goes a long way toward establishing a healthy immune system. Factors that increase immunity include: not smoking, increasing your intake of green vegetables, eating regular meals, maintaining a proper body weight, getting more than 7 hours of sleep, and exercising regularly. While short-term stress – such as playing sports, experiencing stage-fright, or dealing with an immediate threat – is a temporary natural immune system enhancer, numerous studies have shown that chronic stress reduces immune activity. Those who deal with chronic stress, such as a high-pressure job or a troubled relationship, typically have lower-than-average white blood cell counts.
FLU VACCINATION AND EGG ALLERGY
Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends:
1.Persons with a history of egg allergy who have experienced only hives after exposure to egg should receive flu vaccine. Any licensed and recommended flu vaccine (i.e., any form of IIV-(Inactivated Influenza Vaccine) or RIV(Recombinant Influenza Vaccine) ) that is otherwise appropriate for the recipient’s age and health status may be used.
2.Persons who report having had reactions to egg involving symptoms other than hives, such as angioedema, respiratory distress, lightheadedness, or recurrent emesis; or who required epinephrine or another emergency medical intervention, may similarly receive any licensed and recommended flu vaccine (i.e., any form of IIV or RIV) that is otherwise appropriate for the recipient’s age and health status. The selected vaccine should be administered in an inpatient or outpatient medical setting (including, but not necessarily limited to hospitals, clinics, health departments, and physician offices). Vaccine administration should be supervised by a health care provider who is able to recognize and manage severe allergic conditions.
3.A previous severe allergic reaction to flu vaccine, regardless of the component suspected of being responsible for the reaction, is a contraindication to future receipt of the vaccine.
SPECIAL TIPS TO REDUCE YOUR RISK OF GETTING SICK
- SCRUB. Wash your hands with soap for at least 30 seconds – and wash them often. If you can’t wash, then use a hand sanitizer. Use sanitary wipes to clean phone mouthpieces, door knobs, computer keyboards, and other hands-on surfaces.
- COVER. Don’t cough or sneeze into your hands, where germs will be spread onto everything you touch. Instead, use a tissue or the crook of your elbow.
- HANDS OFF. Don’t touch your face. Cold and flu viruses enter your body through the eyes, nose, or mouth. If you travel or are exposed to lots of people, you may increase your resistance byusing throat sprays and zinc lozenges.
- FLOSS. What does flossing have to do with virus prevention? Plenty. Over 300 species of bacteria live in your mouth, and viruses use bacteria as “factories”to grow and multiply. So be sure to floss at least once and brush at least twice daily, and give those viruses fewer options.
- EAT RIGHT. Cut down on sugar and eat more fruits and vegetables to boost your immune system. If you should get infected with a cold or flu, you’ll be in better condition to help fend it off or. shorten its stay.
- DRINK WATER. Drinking plenty of water helps flush out toxins and keeps you hydrated.
- WORK OUT. Aerobic exercise speeds up the heart, helps transfer oxygen from your lungs to your blood, and makes you sweat – all of which can help increase the body's natural virus-defending abilities.
- QUIT SMOKING. Statistics show that heavy smokers get more severe colds and more frequent ones.
- SUPPLEMENT. Key vitamins, minerals, and herbs can help to keep your immune system strong so that you can fight off infections. We also recommend supplementing with extra vitamin C and vitamin D.
The writer is Medical Officer at Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Narayana Super Speciality Hospital Jammu/Motivational Speaker/Activist/Columnists/Journalist/Top Educator Awardee.
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