The flu is “for the birds” and it should stay that way. While much of America frets over the slim likelihood of an invasion by the birds (Hitchcock was quite the Nostradamus!), The truth is that there have been 150 deaths worldwide due to avian flu over the past 10 years, almost all of them in Asia and Eastern Europe. On the other hand, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that 5 to 20 percent of Americans are afflicted with the flu during each flu season, which typically lasts from November to March. They estimate that in the United States alone, more than 200,000 people are hospitalized, and about 36,000 people die from the flu and its complications every year (National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, March 2006). While the flu vaccination, or flu shot, is helpful to the elderly as well as some immuno-compromised groups, it is obviously not enough. With children being 2 to 3 times more likely to catch colds and flus than adults, prevention is the key for any family.
While the common cold and the flu are both due to respiratory viruses, a coldly rare leads to fevers, headache, exhaustion and dehydration, all common symptoms of a flu virus. Both the cold and the flu are due to airborne viruses, meaning the risk factor is increased in highly populated areas such as subways, crowded homes and schools. It may take 1 to 4 days to show symptoms once infected, and the contagious period is rough 7 days from infection. Therefore the contagious period may begin even before symptoms
appear, and may last for 3 to 6 days after the symptoms appear (National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, March 2006). Common symptoms of both the cold and the flu are body aches (especially the upper back and neck), chills, dry cough, sore throat and stuffy nose. Children have the additional possibility of ear infections and gastrointestinal symptoms, such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. These symptoms are uncommon in adults.
A common course of treatment for these symptoms is the use of nasal sprays, Tylenol and aspirin, none of which get to the root of the problem, or prepare one for future encounters with the dreaded virus. It is well known that we require an abundance of fluids and rest when fighting off colds and flus, but is there something else we can do to keep these “bad guys” away? Acupuncture, herbs and vitamins are invaluable in the preventive phase and early stages of these viruses.
While we know the root of colds and flus are viruses, acupuncturists look for the events that precipitate the contracting of the virus. An acupuncturist looks at the propensity of certain individuals to be suspicious to an invasion with a greater amount of “cold” signs versus “heat” signs. The acupuncturist also looks at where one may fall on a continuum of 6 stages of cold induced disorder. Chinese medical theory states that as each of the 6 stages progress, the virus moves deeper internally, starting at the head and progressing through the lungs, stomach, intestines, liver and finally the kidneys. Of great importance in any clinic is the acupuncturist's ability to determine the stage to which a person has progressed and which points to needle based on that stage. As this system provides such detailed organization, the treatments can be much more effective than many of the alternatives on the market, especially if treatment begins in the early stages of infection.
Chinese Herbal Therapy
As the Chinese medical model applies to both acupuncture and Chinese herbal therapy, there are specific herbal remedies dependent upon the stage of the disorder as well as a person's constitutional exercises. For example, if a patient sufferers from body aches and chills (first stage hits) and has a history of high blood pressure (constitutional trait), some of the warm herbs in a first stage formula would require substitution as not to aggravate the high blood pressure. This makes it imperative to find a qualified clinical herbalist to form the remedy for you.
Vitamins are an essential preventative measure for children and adults as we enter the fall and winter. As a general baseline, adults should consider a multivitamin as well as an increase in Vitamin C as the weather turns. Youngsters should take a powdered, chewable or liquid vitamin blend specifically developed for children.