Cold, Influenza and Maintaining Wellness During the Flu Season

Why  do we catch colds and/or get the flu?

cold woman

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 subsidcold-and-flu viruse, 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.

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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.

senior-man-flu-shotPeople who cannot get the nasal spray vaccine:

  • 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.
Settlements Vaccine 1

Settlements Vaccine 2

Settlements Vaccine 3

Settlements Vaccine 4

Settlements Vaccine 5

Settlements Vaccine 5

Settlements Vaccine 6

Settlements Vaccine 7 Settlements Vaccine 8
Settlements Vaccine 9

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.”


Flu shotResearchers 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.

Prevention-Tips-InfographicEngaging 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.

Natural Headache Remedies
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.



Baker, Deborah, D.C,  Is There A Natural Cure For.. Flu Shot 2014-2015 Season  Retrieved online 9/30/14

Benowitz I, Esposito DB, Gracey KD, et al. Influenza vaccine given to pregnant women reduces hospitalization due to influenza in their infants. Clin Infect Dis. 2010; 51(12):1355-61.

Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Influenza Vaccine Safety, Seasonal Influenza (Flu)

Ciszewski A, Bilinska ZT, Brydak LB, et al. Influenza vaccination in secondary prevention from coronary ischaemic events in coronary artery disease: FLUCAD study. Eur Heart J. 2008 Jun; 29(11):1350-8.

Ferdinands JM, Olsho LEW, Agan AA, et al. Effectiveness of influenza vaccine against life-threatening RT-PCR-confirmed influenza illness in US children, 2010-2012. J Infect Dis. 2014; 210(5):674-683.

Flu Shot Causes Polio-like Guillain-Barré Syndrome: Are Rates Higher Than the Government Admits?
J Intern Med. 2011 Jan;269(1):118-25. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2796.2010.02285.x. Epub 2010 Oct 22.

Flu Vaccine is the most Dangerous Vaccine in the U. S. based on Settled Cases for Injuries,  Health Impact News,

Gach, Michael Reed , PhD, Acupressure Points for Sinus Problems & Nasal Congestion  Acupressure Points for Sinus Infection

Hills, Wellesley , MA , Gold Law Firm, LLC.,  The National Vaccine Law Firm Obtains Compensation for Man Injured By Flu Vaccine  Flu Shot Season is Upon Us—Gold Law Firm Files Petitions to Compensate Those Injured as a Result of Vaccination, Retrieved online 9/30/14

Holzinger F, and Chenot J-F, Systematic Review of Clinical Trials Assessing the Effectiveness of Ivy Leaf (Hedera Helix) for Acute Upper Respiratory Tract Infections, Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, Volume 2011 (2011), Article ID 382789, 9 pages

Lanza GA1, Barone L, Scalone G, Pitocco D, Sgueglia GA, Mollo R, Nerla R, Zaccardi F, Ghirlanda G, Crea F, Inflammation-related effects of adjuvant influenza A vaccination on platelet activation and cardiac autonomic function .J Intern Med. 2011 Jan;269(1):118-25. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2796.2010.02285.x. Epub 2010 Oct 22.

Liu W, Jiang H, and Mao B, Chinese Herbal Medicine for Postinfectious Cough: A Systematic Review of Randomized Controlled Trials,Evidence-Based Complementary Alternative Medicine, Volume 2013 (2013), Article ID 906765. PMC385334810 Published online Nov 20, 2013. doi: 10.1155/2013/906765

Mercola, Dr., Flu Vaccination: The Hidden Risks in This Heavily Promoted Seasonal Routine. October 31, 2011 Retrieved online 9/30/14

Phrommintikul A, Kuanprasert S, Wongcharoen W,et al. Influenza vaccination reduces cardiovascular events in patients with acute coronary syndrome. Eur Heart J. 2011; 32(14):1730-5.

Shadkam MN, et al. A comparison of the effect of honey, dextromethorphan, and diphenhydramine on nightly cough and sleep quality in children and their parents. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. 2010;16:787.

Smith, Deborahann, Natural Remedies for Sinusitis.  Gaiam Life: Your Guide to Better Living

Talbot HK, Griffin, MR, Chen Q, et al. Effectiveness of seasonal vaccine in preventing confirmed influenza-associated hospitalizations in community dwelling older adults. J. Infect Dis 2011; 203:500-8.

Talbot HK, Zhu Y, Chen Q, et al. Effectiveness of influenza vaccine for preventing laboratory-confirmed influenza hospitalizations in adults, 2011-2012 influenza season. Clin Infect Dis. 2013; 56(12): 1774-7.

Udell JA, Zawi R, Bhatt DL, et al. Association between influenza vaccination and cardiovascular outcomes in high-risk patients: a meta-analysis. JAMA. 2013; 310(16): 1711-20.



Kevin McMahan3This 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 E. DartJean 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


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.

Sore Throat, Strep Throat or Tonsillitis: Which is it?

With the flu season in full swing, countless people are getting sick from a variety of illnesses.  About 40 million people visit the doctor each year for sore throat.  Since there are many kinds of viruses and bacteria, it can be very difficult to determine an accurate diagnosis. Common illnesses include sore throat, strep throat and tonsillitis. These ailments have similarities that including the population affected, the cause, and the symptoms that manifest. To properly treat a bacterial or viral infection, it is crucial to understand which kind of infection is present in the body.

Strep ThroatWhat is Sore Throat?

A sore throat can be very uncomfortable, and feel dry, painful, and irritated. Sore throat affects people of all ages and can be caused by the common cold, the flu, allergies to foods, air pollutants or second hand smoke, sinusitis, straining the vocal cords through over use, acid reflux disease, cancer or tumors in the throat, dental infections, reaction to medications, and more. Because of the wide variety of causes of sore throat, it is best to consult with your family physician.  Sore throats can be contagious so children should not attend school while infected with the illness. Symptoms of a sore throat caused by a viral infection can include: headaches, body aches, throat pain, laryngitis, cough, fever and congestion.  Most sore throats can improve within a few day or may take as long as a week or two.  Taking antibiotics may not be necessary or effective. Viruses do not respond to antibiotics.

What are Natural Treatments for Sore Throat?
Viral infections and common throat irritations are not improved with antibiotic treatment, however a change in lifestyle and natural treatments are quit effective in alleviating pain and promoting healing.  Natural treatment for sore throat include but aren’t limited to the following:

  1. salt-water gargle
  2. lozenges and throat sprays
  3. fruit juices and fluids (8 – 10, 8-ounce glasses a day)
  4. Vitamin C
  5. honey and apple cider vinegar ( Do not give to very young children as it can cause infant botulism and may also cause allergic reactions.)
  6. lemon juice or lime juice
  7. ginger tea
  8. sage tea
  9. neti pot (to remove allergens from nose causing post nasal drip)
  10. marshmallow sap in a tea or in lozenges
  11. plenty of rest
  12. horseradish
  13. vaporizer or humidifier, or a steam tent
  14. anise or licorice drops
  15. frozen ice, or frozen fruit (cools the throat and lowers fever)
  16. garlic (contains allicin, a chemical that can kill the bacteria that causes strep).

What is Strep Throat?
Strep throat is a form of sore throat that can be caused by bacterium called Group A streptococcus, usually found in the throat or in the skin.  According to the Center of Disease Control and Prevention, Group A streptococci can “spread through direct contact with mucus from the nose or throat of persons who are infected or through contact with infected wounds or sores on the skin.” These infections can be very contagious and should be taken seriously, as it may lead to rheumatic fever, scarlet fever, and permanent heart or kidney damage.

Staph and Strep

Strep throat affects people of all ages however it is more prevalent among school-aged children and teenagers due to them being in such close proximity with each other in school. The disease is caused by a germ called Group A streptococcus bacterium. The U.S. National Library of Medicine states that the symptoms of strep throat include:

      1. Fever
      2. Red sore throat
      3. White patches in throat
      4. Swollen glands
      5. Ill feeling
      6. Headache
      7. Nausea

If antibiotics are needed, those with strep throat should stay home from school or work until the medicine has been in their system for at least 1-2 days. Strep throat can improve within two weeks if treated properly.

What is Tonsillitis?
Tonsillitis is inflammation of the tonsils. Tonsils are glands located at the back of the throat. Tonsillitis can be caused by a virus or bacterium such as Streptococcus pyogenes which causes strep throat. The American Academy of Otolaryngology –Head and Neck Surgery writes that herpes simplex virus and Epstein-Barr virus can also be the cause of tonsillitis. The illness affects primarily children and teens ages 5-15.

Symptoms Tonsilitis

Symptoms of tonsillitis include:

      1. Fever
      2. Sore throat
      3. White or yellow patches in throat
      4. Tender lymph nodes in the neck
      5. Painful swallowing
      6. Lethargy
      7. Halitosis

Tonsillitis is very contagious and can be spread from person to person by contact with mucus of someone who is infected with the sickness. To diagnose tonsillitis, a doctor must perform either a rapid strep test or throat culture. Antibiotics are usually prescribed for tonsillitis caused by a bacterium. A child with tonsillitis needs plenty of rest and liquids. To prevent the re-occurrence of tonsillitis, practicing good hygiene is essential.

Sore Throat

How Can We Be Certain Which Ailment We Have?

Sore throat
is a minor condition. Strep throat and tonsillitis can both be caused by either a virus or bacterium infection such as Group A streptococcus. All three ailments cause headaches, fever and similar symptoms. The best way to determine which illness is occurring would be to visit the doctor to get tested with the Rapid Strep Test (RST), or rapid antigen detection test (RADT).  The Rapid Strep Test is one of the most common tests for streptococcal pharyngitis. If antibiotics are needed, take the dosage as prescribed by your trusted physician. Washing hands and face often can greatly help prevent the contraction of a sore throat, strep throat or tonsillitis.




Center for Disease Control and Prevention

U.S. National Library of Medicine

American Academy of Otolaryngology

New Human Physiology, by Paulev-Zubieta


 Hang Pham, MBHA Health EducatorThis article is written by Hang Pham, Monterey Bay Holistic Alliance Health and Wellness Educator.  Hang Pham was born in Hoc Mon, Vietnam.  She came to America in 1994, becoming a U.S. citizen in 2011. Hang graduated from Seaside High School with diploma and received her AA in General Studies from Monterey Peninsula College in 2011. She received her BA in Collaborative Health and Human Services from California State University Monterey Bay (CSUMB) in 2012. In addition to working as a volunteer staff with the Monterey Bay Holistic Alliance, she currently works as a Clerical Aid in the Human Resources Department of Salinas City Hall. To find out more about our Health Educators, or to apply as a Monterey Bay Holistic Alliance writer or volunteer, visit our website at

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.