February is right in the middle of the cold and flu season. While this time of year is unavoidable and nature takes its cycles through its season there are several things you can consider during this time with the support of Chinese Medicine.
- First, how to prevent catching a cold/flu.
- Second, what to do when you do fall ill from a cold or flu.
- Third, keep in mind the big picture of your health.
Prevent Catching a Cold
Let’s start with prevention.
One of the easiest ways to prevent picking up unwanted germs and bacteria is by adopting the habit of washing your hands frequently and avoiding touching your face. Your face has all the entryways for a virus/bacteria to enter your system (the eyes, ears, nose, and mouth).
It seems simple enough but did you know that the flu virus can last up to 24 hours on surfaces and can be transferred to your hands simply by touching the infected surface?
Once on the hands, the active surviving viruses lifetime is much less. On a tissue, the live flu virus can last up to 15 minutes but all it takes is for your hand to come into contact with a live virus on any surface such as countertops, doorknobs, your cell phone followed by you then touching your face. At that point, the infectious virus has a good chance of entering the body.
Another prevention tip is to keep your health in good order.
What does that mean exactly?
The immune system falters when we don’t sleep enough, eat poor quality foods, have unmitigated stress, have lots of emotional mood swings, or are somehow continuously strained. If you find yourself in one or more of these conditions, it’s important to do something proactive in strengthening your immune system during the cold and flu season.
Acupuncture and Herbal Medicine for Immune Health
Acupuncture and herbal medicine have been used for thousands of years to strengthen the immune system. A very famous formula, Yu Ping Feng San, is designed to “secure the exterior” of the human condition.
In modern terms, this alludes to the idea of strengthening the body’s outermost immune system or peripheral immune system. This is the part of the immune system that would first encounter an invasion from a virus or a bacteria into the body. The formula’s success is partially due to the heavy amount of Huang qi, or Astragalus root. Many studies have shown Astragalus to enhance the immune system’s different components.
Within Chinese Medicine, there are many formulas that use Astragalus in their strategies. The varied remedies each take into account the needs in supporting the body. For instance, for all the patients wanting immune support, some may also suffer from high blood pressure. The patients in this category would receive a very different combination of herbs so as not to aggravate the condition of high blood pressure.
In other cases, some patients require an entirely different route to strengthen their immune system. These patients may have other significant problems such as insomnia, high blood sugar, or unchecked pain which can detract from the immune system’s responsiveness. By taking care of these issues the immune system will naturally strengthen towards fighting exterior conditions.
What should you do when you fall ill from a cold or flu?
First, see your Chinese Herbalist immediately at the very initial signs of your symptoms.
For those of you who are already on a regular formula for your wellbeing, stop immediately, and call your herbalist.
Yes, you read that right. Once you are down with the bugs, you must stop and address it and get on a different treatment to target that virus/bacterial infection.
The use of acupuncture and herbs can speed along the course of an illness and prevent excessive damage by these unwanted viruses and bacterias. Many patients report how quickly they get back on their feet versus co-workers or family members who are not proactively caring for their condition.
For many strains of the cold and flu, there is nothing to be done on the Western pharmacologic side of medicine. The bug must run its course. Over the course of several weeks, the body will take care of these invaders, but not without cost. Letting a virus run its course is like fighting a battle over terrain. Just as the terrain gets scarred and ruined during battle, so do the tissues and structures of our physical bodies during a virulent infection.
For those with weaker immune systems and constitutions, such as the elderly and the newborn, this can be very dangerous. We saw this in 2009 with the H1N1 flu. Roughly 60 million Americans contracted the disease, 275,000 were hospitalized and 12,500 died, making this one of the worst pandemics in modern times. H1N1 was a special flu in that not only the elderly and newborns were more susceptible, but people of all age ranges succumbed to this infection. Every year the flu vaccine is recommended for all to take to help protect the most vulnerable members of our society, the newborns and the elderly. You may be able to survive a flu infection, but the person you pass it to may not
The Chinese pharmacy is chock full of herbs to fight against viral and bacterial presence. So if you do fall ill, there is immediate herbal help to support your system as it goes through the battle of ridding the body of the virus. This will curb the damage the virus will cause if you are infected.
It is still very important that you see your MD in order to undergo testing and verification of the flu. If positive, staying away from the public and those who are vulnerable is essential in preventing the spread of illness. Once infected, you are able to pass the infection for 5-7 days, or until your symptoms are gone.
Your Overall Health
In the big picture of health, you should be as strong and healthy as you can by making sure key areas of your life are in good order. Pay attention to digestion, sleep, mood moderation, ample levels of energy for your activities, good skin health, and feeling as pain-free as possible. This will keep your immune system ready for action.
As you assess your overall health, pay close attention to the areas that need help and bring in support such as your doctor, nutritionist, acupuncturist, and/or herbalist. Stay connected with your Chinese Herbalist to make sure you are ready for the cold and flu season with the right remedies. If you do come down with something, make an appointment as soon as you can to help prevent the infection from ravaging your body.
Do you have some questions about cold and flu season? Or which herbs you should be taking? Don’t hesitate to reach out to us. We’re happy to find the right treatment plan for you.
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