Liz Klimas shares part of the story on why people who got their flu shots this year are still home in bed with flu...
But the official line about flu shots taking two weeks to kick in doesn't tell the whole story. I know people who had the shots in September and were ill in November or December.
As one of the Blaze commenters observed, rhinovirus is a whole different "bug" from influenza virus. So is norovirus--the fast-moving "24-hour tummy bug" that apparently felled Hillary Rodham Clinton. If you have either (a) a runny nose, sore throat, cough, sinus headache, but little or no fever, or (b) uncontrollable vomiting and diarrhea that make you sprint to the bathroom once or twice and then go away leaving you feeling fine, the reason why a flu shot didn't protect you (or wouldn't have done) is that you don't technically have flu.
If you have "an inflamed sore throat, high fever, gushing nose, bone and joint pains, dizziness, faintness, cramps, headaches, earaches, eye-aches, nausea every time you look at food for like days, and a general all-over sense of being Sick As A Dawg," according to what local flu sufferers tell me, you've had this year's flu, and this year's flu shot hasn't done you any good. And may, in a few rare cases, have done you harm.
Whether you are so vulnerable you need flu shots, or so resistant you laugh at the idea of having one, thre are some common-sense things you can do to become more flu-resistant. (You may still feel your body fighting the virus after you've been exposed, but for most of us it doesn't have to be painful or life-threatening.) Here's a Top Ten List:
1. Eat sensibly. Simple carbs, yeast bread, cheese, grapes, and alcoholic drinks may have their place in most people's diets, but they can reduce immunity by encouraging living yeast to get out of balance with the friendly bacteria in your intestines. (In a healthy body, the bacteria digest the yeast and manufacture Vitamin B-12 from the protein in the yeast. In an unhealthy body, the yeast become a burden on the immune system.) If you have taken antibiotics, vaccinations, or steroids, have given birth, or have been exposed to mold, you may want to reduce your use of the foods that yeast eat. Eat more green vegetables!
2. Drink plenty of water. If you drink coffee, tea, soda pop or other things that contain caffeine, be sure to drink a greater or equal volume of water, since caffeine flushes water out of the body.
3. Make sure your home and office are clean, well-lighted, well-aired, and low-humidity. No matter how good your other health habits are, exposure to household (and office) mold zaps the immune system.
4. Keep a good healthy distance from other people...such that, if you and someone else reach out at the same time, you could touch each other's hands. Avoid getting close to people who don't live in your home (who already share your immunity). There are other health benefits of living in a close, affectionate family, but your exposure to infections goes up in proportion to the number of people who share your home...or shake your hand, or sit shoulder-to-shoulder with you on the bus. If you must attend school and church this winter, don't touch people!
5. Rev up your immune system with plenty of aerobic exercise.
6. Stay warm when you do have a fever, or feel one coming on. Build up tolerance for cold temperatures when you don't have a fever. People pick up infections while huddling in stuffy warm houses, then become chilled and physically stressed and succumb to the infections when they go out in the cold.
7. Do put on winter gear when you go out in the cold. Peel it off when you start to feel warm. It's better to carry around coats, shawls, mittens, caps, etc., than it is to be either chilled or sweaty while exercising in cold weather. (Yes, Gate City readers know that they can take my word on this. Yes, I'm one of the middle-aged ladies you've seen walking around town. Yes, at least three of us have dark hair with just enough grey to show when you get close up.)
8. Practice kindness and public spirit...it's been proven to boost your immunity. Read books or watch movies about Mother Teresa, for whom this effect has been scientifically named, and other people who've demonstrated fortitude and generosity. This was breaking health news when I was fighting off hepatitis twenty-some years ago, and it does help...if you've already had the flu and are trying to shorten your recovery time, you can probably feel it. I did.
9. Clear your conscience. Keep your word. Pay your debts. Return your overdue library books (after flu symptoms subside of course--don't spread the flu around the library). Revive those New Year's resolutions. This also boosts immunity to flu and other diseases.
10. Minimize use of any drug. If you take pain medication, work on building your natural resistance to pain. If you take antidepressants, ask your doctor about tapering off. If you've taken antibiotics, steroid-type pain meds, or birth control pills recently, talk to your doctor about probiotics (friendly bacteria in capsules you can take as a supplement) to help restore balance before you're exposed to another infection. And for pity's sake don't take any drugs--statins or other "preventives," alcohol, street drugs, unnecessary antibiotics--that you don't need.
Here's a bonus tip from the oldest gentleman I've ever "fallen in love" with. (He was 87, I was 38 and happily married, so of course this was an abstract, platonic kind of love...the kind that makes a writer's assistant willing to fill in as nurse and even cleaning person.) Before and after being in a room with flu sufferers, gargle with original-formula, unsweetened Listerine. The vile-tasting traces of herb extracts are pretty good antiviral treatments. Worked for him in the trenches in World War II, so it may work for you, too.
And, of course, from the Delany Sisters...chop up and swallow one raw garlic clove before breakfast!