Why do we catch colds and/or get the flu?
As Autumn begins, so does the school year. This time of year also marks the beginning of cold and flu season, as the influx of bodies in crowded places creates a perfect environment for the precipitation of pathogens. The afflictions we can most likely expect to encounter are the common cold and the flu.
Colds are caused by viruses.
The rhinovirus is the most common virus causing the flu. Symptoms of the cold include sneezing, stuffy or runny nose, sore throat, coughing, watery eyes, body aches, and headaches. When the nose and sinuses are first infected, they create a clear mucus that helps flush out pathogens. Later as the cold progresses and begins to subside, the natural bacteria found in the nose begin to return and the color of the mucous may change.
Parents are often fooled into thinking this means that their child needs antibiotics, but colored mucous is not always indicative of a bacterial infection. Moreover, antibiotics can’t help a cold get better because it’s caused by a virus which is unaffected by antibiotics. Their misuse can actually cause more harm than good. A healthcare practitioner should be consulted if a child’s temperature exceeds 100.4 degrees, if symptoms last longer than 10 days, or if symptoms are not relieved by over-the-counter medicines.
The influenza virus, or the flu, is a contagious respiratory illness.
Its symptoms may include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle and body aches, headaches, fatigue, nausea, and vomiting. Not everyone with the flu will have a fever. The flu is most easily spread when people sneeze, cough, and even talk. The virus is especially adept at spreading, in part because people with the virus can be contagious up to one day before any symptoms develop, and for up to five to seven days after becoming sick. The flu’s virulence (how sick it can make someone) is unpredictable and fluctuates from year to year.
Flu season lasts from roughly October through May and thousands of people die from it every year, mostly older adults.
To curb the rate and severity of infection, a yearly flu vaccination is recommended for nearly everyone six-months-old and older (those with certain allergies may need to talk to a doctor first). The vaccine is even recommended for pregnant women, and a recent study showed that its administration in the demographic yielded a 92% rate of effectiveness for preventing flu-related hospitalization of infants (Benowitz, 2010). Some people should not get the flu shot or the nasal spray vaccine. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention,
People who can’t get the flu shot:
- Children younger than 6 months are too young to get a flu shot
- People with severe, life-threatening allergies to flu vaccine or any ingredient in the vaccine. This might include gelatin, antibiotics, or other ingredients. See Special Considerations Regarding Egg Allergy for more information about egg allergies and flu vaccine.Note: There are certain flu shots that have different age indications. For example people younger than 65 years of age should not get the high-dose flu shot and people who are younger than 18 years old or older than 64 years old should not get the intradermal flu shot.
- Children younger than 2 years
- Adults 50 years and older
- People with a history of severe allergic reaction to any component of the vaccine or to a previous dose of any influenza vaccine
- People who are allergic to eggs
- Children or adolescents (2 years through 17 years of age) on long-term aspirin treatment.
- Pregnant women
- People with weakened immune systems (immunosuppression)
- Children 2 years through 4 years who have asthma or who have had a history of wheezing in the past 12 months.
- People who have taken influenza antiviral drugs within the previous 48 hours.
- People who care for severely immunocompromised persons who require a protective environment (or otherwise avoid contact with those persons for 7 days after getting the nasal spray vaccine).
Despite scientific research, whether or not the risks of the flu shot outweigh the benefits, remains controversial.
Multiple holistic and natural health practitioners, enthusiasts and advocates do not endorse the use of flu shots and site research warranting concern. A 2011 research study published in the International Journal of Medicine, (Lanza, et al, 2011), entitled “Inflammation-related effects of adjuvant influenza A vaccination on platelet activation and cardiac autonomic function,” revealed a fact that is not discussed by conventional health authorities, or mainstream news media reports. According to these researchers, flu shots result in inflammatory cardiovascular changes which cause increased risk for serious heart-related events such as heart attack.
Most flu shots have high quantities of mercury, higher than what is considered safe for most people. Thimerosal, which is 49 percent mercury by volume, is a widely used vaccine preservative. It can be found in many different vaccines used in the U.S., including most seasonal flu vaccines, although there are a few million doses of thimerosal-free single dose vials of influenza vaccine made by drug companies which are reserved for infants and pregnant women. The amount of mercury in a single dose of the flu shot is deemed unsafe for people weighing less than 265 pounds. It’s a well established fact that mercury is a neurotoxin, having harmful effects on the brain. If you are getting a flu shot you can request that it be thimerosal-free.
An Act of Congress in 1986 that was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2011, decreed that a special court be created to handle all vaccine cases, Vaccine Court. The funds for settlements are paid by a vaccine sales tax. The settlements in Vaccine Court can be downloaded and viewed and we have pasted it here below. A large number of settlements have been for the flu shot for Guillain-Barré Syndrome. The flu shot has also been linked to narcolepsy in children, allergic reactions and an increased risk of Alzheimer’s in seniors. Adjudicated settlements for 8/16/13 – 11/15/13 are below. Note the number of Guillain-Barré Syndrome cases linked to flu shots. Compensation for injuries and deaths due to the flu vaccine were more than the total compensation paid out to eleven other vaccines.
Despite these multiple settlements for Guillain-Barré Syndrome, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention believes flu shots to be safe and strongly recommends that the advantages outweigh the risks and side effects, stating,
“For more than 50 years, seasonal flu vaccines have had very good safety track records. Over the years, hundreds of millions of Americans have received seasonal flu vaccines. The most common side effects following flu vaccinations are mild. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) closely monitor for any signs that flu vaccines are causing unexpected adverse events and are working with state and local health officials to investigate any unusual events.”
Researchers believe that the flu vaccine cannot give someone the flu.
Some vaccines are made from non-infectious, “inactive” viruses, and others, like the recombinant flu vaccine, are made without any viruses at all. At worst there are mild side-effects from the flu shot and nasal nasal spray such as headache or runny nose. Some researchers conclude that the known benefits of flu vaccines far outweigh the cost of contracting the virus. Protecting yourself also helps protect others who might be more vulnerable. There will be 150 million doses of the vaccine available to the public this year. Additionally, new laws require health insurance policies to cover the vaccine so virtually no one should have to pay out of pocket.
A variety of alternative approaches to health and healing can improve immune function during cold and flu season.
Engaging in a light exercise such as walking just a few times a week may improve the body’s immunity. It’s also important to stay well-hydrated by drinking plenty of water daily. Plenty of fresh vegetables and fruit in addition to the other components of a balanced diet are paramount to staying well and optimizing immune responses during cold and flu season. Last, but no less important, is forming is the habit of frequent hand washing with soap and warm water. Soap and water is always superior to an alcohol-based sanitizer.
Natural remedies and treatments can be very successful in relieving or eliminating cold and flu symptoms and have less side effects than prescription drugs.
Natural remedies and treatments include:
For cough -wild cherry bark, marshmallow root, honey, ginger root, elderberries, mullien
For headache - acupuncture, peppermint oil, hot water bottle, ginger tea, meditation, exercise, massage, ice pack and sleep.
For sore throat – salt-water gargle, herbal lozenges and throat sprays, fruit juices and fluids, vitamin C, honey and apple cider vinegar (do not give to young children), lemon or lime juice, ginger tea, neti-pot, marshmallow sap, horseradish, vaporizer, anise or licorice drops, frozen ice or frozen fruit, garlic
For sinus infection – netipot, quercetin, vitamin C, vitamin E, acupuncture, acupressure, reflexology, steam, rest, drinking plenty of fluids
Cold and flu season is unavoidable. Fortunately, its effects can be prevented or at least minimized if we are prepared and take the proper precautions to stay well.
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This article is written by Kevin McMahan and Jean Voice Dart, Health and Wellness Educators for the Monterey Bay Holistic Alliance.
Kevin has had a lifelong interest in health and wellness. After graduating from Carmel High School he went on to get an associates degree in social sciences from Monterey Peninsula College, and a bachelors in kinesiology from California State University Monterey Bay. He is a certified personal trainer through the American College of Sports Medicine. “Your health is your wealth”, is something that he always likes to say.
Jean Voice Dart, M.S. Special Education from Illinois State University, is a published author and has written hundreds of health articles as well as hosting a local television program, “Making Miracles Happen.” She is a Registered Music Therapist, Sound Therapist, and Master Level Energetic Teacher, and is the Executive Director, founder and Health and Wellness Educator of the Monterey Bay Holistic Alliance. The Monterey Bay Holistic Alliance is a registered 501 (c) 3 nonprofit health and wellness education organization. For more information about the Monterey Bay Holistic Alliance contact us or visit our website at www.montereybayholistic.com.
Disclaimer: The Monterey Bay Holistic Alliance is a charitable, independent registered nonprofit 501(c)3 organization and does not endorse any particular products or practices. We exist as an educational organization dedicated to providing free access to health education resources, products and services. Claims and statements herein are for informational purposes only and have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The statements about organizations, practitioners, methods of treatment, and products listed on this website are not meant to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. This information is intended for educational purposes only. The MBHA strongly recommends that you seek out your trusted medical doctor or practitioner for diagnosis and treatment of any existing health condition.