Monday, November 20, 2006

Reduce Your Flu & Cold Risk

Reduce Your Flu & Cold Risk
By Robert Ing, DSc, FAPSc

Herron Multi-Vitamin & Mineral SupplementEach year the flu and cold pose major health concerns to everyone. There really is not a flu or cold season, as you can get either one of these in the winter or summer. However, approximately 72% of infections do occur during the winter months. Although the reason for this remains undetermined, a common theory is that during the winter months the metabolisms of animals, including humans slows down and as a result both viral and bacterial infections stay in the body for longer periods of time. This longer period allows even the mildest of infections that might be considered more of a nuisance (like a slight runny nose or cough) to expand further into something with more bothersome signs and symptoms (such as fever, nausea, aches, tiredness) lasting a few days.

The increased concern and risk of flu pandemics and other respiratory infections affect people of all ages. While it is impossible to completely eliminate the risk of flu or cold infection you can take simple, inexpensive steps to reduce these risks. Reducing your risk of infection can be divided into two basic categories: Germ Reduction and Immune System Fitness.

Germ Reduction
Germ reduction refers to reducing your exposure to flu and cold germs. This is accomplished by controlling, reducing and avoiding exposure to viruses and bacteria that will make you ill.

The often overlooked but first line of defence against all forms of flu and cold is proper hand washing. Out of all the preventative measures, hand washing is by far the most universally effective and simplest procedure. You can reduce the risk of catching the flu or a cold by following these simple steps.

1. ALWAYS Wash Your Hands with soap and water for 20 seconds, before and after going to the washroom, before preparing food, eating and as often as necessary.

2. Avoid touching your face or putting your fingers in your eyes, nose, mouth or ears unless you have washed them first.

3. Keep an alcohol-based hand sanitiser (gel or wipes) handy to clean your hands in case you can't get to soap and running water. Carry 3 to 6 alcohol swabs in your wallet or purse to be used in the event you have to clean a public convenience before you use it; such as the telephone at your hotel, a public telephone or the steering wheel of your rental vehicle, etc.

4. Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. If you don't have a tissue, cough or sneeze into your shoulder or arm pit. After all, you don't want to put the germs you have picked up on your hands into your face nor do you want to put your germs on your hand so that you can pass them on to family or co-workers via the things you will touch next.

5. Wipe the handset of the telephone at your desk, office door knob (both sides) and light switch on a daily basis with an alcohol swab or a damp cloth with mild soap and warm water as these are known places for flu and cold germs.

6. At home, bathroom door knobs (both sides), light switches, toilet flush levers and water facet knobs are accumulators of invisible bacteria and should be cleaned regularly with an alcohol swab or a damp cloth with mild soap and warm water.

7. In public avoid using public use pens at banks, hotels and office buildings - bring and use your own pen all the time. You never know what invisible germs are present.

Immune System Fitness
Immune System Fitness refers to doing the best you can to ensure that your body, should it become exposed to unfriendly virus and bacteria can "fight it off" before it takes over and makes you extremely ill. There are many factors that affect our immune system; these include diet, sleep, stress, lifestyle and general level of health. While we could easily spend a great deal of time on each one of these areas, for the sake of immediate, practical action that you can consider now, we will focus on the first two items only; diet and sleep. It is recommended that you discuss these other areas with your own physician as well as this entire article.

Diet has always been a problem in western society. We simply do not give our bodies all of the vitamins and nutrients required to maintain our health. The result is usually lack of energy, tiredness, irritability, susceptibility to both minor and major illness, infection and general malaise to name only a few. While our food options are many, our lifestyle, fast food marketing and just out of habit, we narrow down what we put in our bodies to a small group of items. Thus, we miss some items that provide key vitamins and minerals to our general well being and our immune system may ultimately suffer. While it would be very easy to recommend that everyone focus on a balanced diet with fresh fruits and vegetables, this is not always practical. However, sound nutrition dictates that it is always good to reduce the amount of fried foods, salt and sugar that we put into our bodies.

The first step in helping your immune system protect you is to take a multi-vitamin once a day, everyday. If you have never done this or have not done this in some time, it may take up to 12 weeks before your system fully utilizes the beneficial vitamins and minerals found in a single multi-vitamin tablet, but once you start taking these it is in the interest of your good health that you continue to make this a daily routine. Research over the years has shown that because the majority of the food that we consume, including vegetables goes through an extensive synthetic processing methodology, the nutritional value of our food has suffered by as much as 80% in certain instances. From injecting hormones into livestock for an increase in meat yield, growing fruits and vegetables in synthetically enhanced or polluted soil, chemical spraying of crops, to the premature harvesting of fruits and vegetables; all of these things have led to each one of us not getting the vitamins and minerals our body needs to maintain a healthy immune system and slow down the aging process. Given this situation, it is very important that a daily multi-vitamin be included as part of a regular nutritional regimen.

Another supplement, Panax Ginseng (Korean Ginseng) is believed to generally improve the immune system. In an Italian trial involving 227 individuals where half were given a daily dose of 100 mg of Panax with the other half given a placebo for four weeks and then received an influenza vaccine the results appeared to be quite promising. A significant decline in flu and cold resulted in the treated group compared to the placebo group at a ratio of 15 to 42. Antibody measurements in the treated group were also at higher levels than in the placebo group. Although further study is required, these findings suggest that Panax may be key in reducing the flu and cold.

The typical recommended dosage of Panax is 200 mg of extract daily for 15 days. Then, take a 15 day rest period and then resume with a cycle of 15 days on and 15 days off. An increase of daily dosage over 200 mg has not demonstrated any additional or increased benefit to the immune system. Panax or any other type of ginseng must not be used by individuals on prescribed medication based on the CYP 3A4 process, MAO inhibitor drugs, children, pregnant or nursing mothers, or those with severe liver or kidney disease, or high blood pressure. Always consult your physician before adopting a ginseng regimen.

An annual flu shot can help reduce your risk of contracting influenza. A flu shot is essential for the elderly, and those who suffer from chronic forms of respiratory problems.

Getting enough sleep is also important in ensuring that your immune system is able to deal with any type of infection. Most adults require approximately 7 to 10 hours of sleep daily, depending on their individual metabolism and state of physical health.

Your immune system needs your help in order to reduce the risk of serious flu and cold infection. You can do this by following these simple steps:

1. Take a multi-vitamin each day.
2. Try to make healthy food choices.
3. Get between 7 - 10 hours of sleep, based on your overall health and metabolism.
4. Consider getting an annual flu shot.

About the Author
Robert Ing, DSc, FAPSc is a forensic specialist with appearances on North American news networks. He has provided security for celebrities and dignitaries. For more articles by Dr. Robert Ing please visit

Picture: Herron Multi-Vitamin & Mineral Supplement (Australia)