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Flu

Agatha M. Thrash, M.D.
Preventive Medicine

Can you tell me what to do at home, without using medications to treat the flu?

Answer:

Almost everyone toughs out the flu at home, but may use over-the-counter or prescription medications. Unfortunately, these medications usually do more harm than good, causing more total discomfort and sickness than would be experienced by merely staying in bed, drinking plenty of water, and doing nothing else.

The first treatment for flu is hot baths, plenty of water, a very light diet, and fresh air.

I would like to tell you how to minimize your chances of coming down with the flu. First, avoid contaminating yourself with persons who may be carrying the virus. That means to wash your hands frequently during the day, and try to avoid sitting at meals or next to a person on a bus, who has a runny nose or is coughing or sneezing. Avoid eating unwashed fruit, as viruses are often spread in this way, especially during winter.

But if despite all your efforts, you find yourself feeling some discomfort in the back of your throat, you should, at the very first sign of any hint of discomfort, begin a deep breathing exercise. If you notice the first symptom while sitting at your desk, driving your car, or working around the house, you can begin a deep breathing exercise, without calling any attention to yourself. The exercise is done simply by taking a large breath, holding it for a few seconds and exhaling as completely as you can. The breathing is done in and out through the nose. Many persons have found that if they continue this exercise for 20 or 30 minutes through the nose, they will not develop a threatened head cold. For sore throat, do the same deep breathing exercises; and in addition, do a finger massage of your lower jaw, under your chin, and up and down the neck. The purpose for both of these, the breathing exercise and the massage, is to encourage the flow of fresh blood into the upper respiratory tract to bring antibodies, white blood cells, and the many blood proteins that have as their natural function that of protecting the area. These simple things are very powerful stimulants to the blood vessels. As the blood vessels dilate in the upper respiratory tract, the brain is alerted to produce endorphins, which have as their function the responsibility to "turn on" the internal mechanisms of healing. Somehow they send a signal to the area being attacked to call out all defense mechanisms.

Charcoal tablets used as lozenges for sore throats are very effective in tying up the germs of sore throat and in soothing the tissues. Ordinary lozenges should be avoided as the sugar in them can actually promote the growth of germs.

Another very simple thing that will prevent the development of colds and the flu is that of keeping the body warm. It is not an old wives’ tale that getting chilled reduces the body's ability to defend itself against the invasion of viruses. Make sure your extremities are warm. A good and simple test is to touch your forehead, then touch the back of your upper arm, the top of your knee, the side of your thigh, and your foot. Each of these areas should feel as warm to your touch as your forehead, and if not, you should immediately warm yourself by standing near a heater, taking a hot bath, doing some brisk exercise, or applying additional layers of clothing. In the winter, women should wear warm underwear on the arms and thighs (The garment called a leg warmer is a godsend for women). Wear long boots if your place of work is not toasty warm. The air temperature should be between 65 and 70 degrees, however, as air that is too warm produces an environment in the respiratory tree, making it more likely to be invaded by viruses.

Upon feeling the first symptom of discomfort signaling the onset of a cold or flu, begin drinking lots of water. Take one glassful every ten minutes for one hour. Again, this simple measure may help to prevent your taking the cold, by merely diluting the fluid bathing the cells of your respiratory tree, and making it less possible for a virus to infect your cells. The water can also expand your blood volume, bringing more blood to a greater number of capillaries in your nose and throat.

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