Dr. Mehmet Oz turned up on the Today show to hand out shots to the cast and share the latest info on what Americans might expect from the upcoming flu season. Researchers who look to Australia as a predictor say we could be facing an especially severe outbreak. The terrible flu season in the Southern Hemisphere has the CDC suggesting inoculations before the end of October. Health officials usually recommend getting a vaccination from September through November.
Taking steps to prevent sickness as well as an early vaccination will give you time to build immunity for the entire flu season, which typically peaks in February. It can take two to four weeks for the antibodies that protect against the flu virus to develop in the body. You can’t predict when flu season will start, but the September death of a 4-year-old boy in California who tested positive for influenza has health officials worried. “That gave everyone a chill and that’s distinctly early for us,” said Dr. William Schaffner, an influenza expert at Vanderbilt University.
Australian flu season worries U.S. officials
The flu season in Australia usually spans from June to September and peaks in August. This year’s Australian outbreak began two months earlier than usual and lasted into October.
Flu season in Australia has already exceeded the 2017 season when the country suffered its worst outbreak in the last 20 years. More than 229,000 laboratory-confirmed cases of influenza were reported then, compared to the 272,146 laboratory-confirmed cases reported by the end of the first week of September this year.
The 2017-2018 flu season in the United States was one of the worst in modern American memory and left an estimated 79,000 dead.
Steps to protect your loved ones
Doctors say taking a few simple steps will help protect not only you but your loved ones.
“There are a few populations that are at particular risk for influenza,” Dr. Oz, host of The Dr. Oz Show, told the Studio 1A audience. “That is pregnant women, newborn infants and those with compromised immune systems. So not only is it important for us to be vaccinated ourselves, it’s also important that when we are vaccinated, we protect those around us. Flu strains mutate from year to year, so getting a new shot each year is important.
There are some precautionary steps to help prevent getting sick in the first place. Aside from washing your hands and covering your mouth when you sneeze, try using saline nasal spray. If your nasal passages are dry, your risk of getting sick increases. Dr. Oz says, “Without any lubrication, the nose can’t flush out bacteria, which results in a safe haven for germs. Adding moisture to the nasal passages also helps to combat stuffiness, congestion and further infection. Look for a spray that has purified water and sodium chloride to get the purest, most effective spray.”
Add buckwheat honey to your pantry cabinet. It is full of immune-boosting properties, so add 1-2 tablespoons a day to your tea to get you through this cold and flu season. A tea made with natural flu-fighting properties like Reishi mushroom is also recommended. Because this is a medicinal mushroom, it’s recommended to get your doctors approval before drinking.
Elderberry syrup and lozenges are helpful in increasing the immune system. This syrup is also safe for kids, but be sure to read the label before administering it.
Coming down with a cold or flu
One of the first steps if you become sick is identifying if you have a cold or flu. Dr. Oz says, “Although some of the symptoms are similar, these are distinctive conditions, each caused by a different type of virus…cold symptoms appear slowly over a few days and mainly affect your head; you’ll have congestion, sneezing, a sore throat or cough. Conversely, the flu affects your whole body and comes on suddenly. You’ll experience pain and body aches, GI symptoms like vomiting or diarrhea, and a fever over 100 degrees.”
According to Dr. Oz, if you have a fever over 100 degrees F, “Alternate between taking acetaminophen and ibuprofen. This combination of drugs targets different receptors and delivers a one-two punch to fevers. Switchback and forth between them every 4-6 hours until your fever is gone or you feel better; be sure not to exceed the maximum dosage for a 24-hour period, as indicated on the package. For a remedy to feel better instantly, try putting cool or wet towels on your neck and underarms. Doing so targets where most major blood vessels run and provides soothing relief.”
For sore throats, try black currant lozenges. “Black currant contains gamma-linoleic acid, a fatty acid that soothes the throat and decreases inflammation. These lozenges are a smart alternative to taking menthol, which provides a cooling sensation but can actually break down your body’s good mucus and damage the throat over time.”
Get immediate treatment
Experts advise seeking immediate treatment if you do come down with the flu. “It’s very important to know that we have effective treatments to both make people feel better quicker and also to prevent spreading it to other individuals,” Oz said.