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Despite the scary headlines, winter flu germs are preventable. We have carefully researched the following steps that families can take to lower their risk of getting the flu in the first place. We call our flu-prevention regimen the outside/inside program: keeping those germs from getting into the body in the first place by careful hygiene; and if they do get in, building the body’s natural immune system to fight these germs so they self-destruct before overwhelming the system.
The best foods to build a strong immune system are fruits, vegetables, and seafood. The nutrients in plant foods, such as fruits and vegetables, are called phytonutrients. I call them "phytos" for short. Phytos are what give fruits and vegetables their rich color. Kids like the term "phytos" – as in "fighting" germs. Become a phytomom and phytodad and tell your kids about "phytoman." In fact, the deeper the color and stronger the flavor of fruits and vegetables, the greater the germ-fighting benefits of the phytos. Tomatoes, red grapes, blueberries, brussels sprouts, chili peppers, onions, and curry are all good sources of phytos. Especially during flu season, put more colorful foods on your plate.
|Oils that boost the immune system||Oils (in excess) that can weaken the immune system|
Enjoy A Nice "Nose Hose"
Make your own saltwater nose drops (½ teaspoon of salt to 8 ounces of water) or buy a ready-made saltwater (saline) solution at your local pharmacy or supermarket. Spritz a few drops of the solution into your clogged nasal passages and sneeze or gently suction out the loosened secretions using a nasal aspirator, also available at your local pharmacy.
A Neti Pot is nice. "Neti" in Indian or Ayurvedic medicine means "water cleansing." I have personally used this handy nasal cleaner and have recommended it in our medical practice as a very effective way to unclog sinuses. My little patients call this handy nose hose "Aladdin’s lamp" because it looks like one. They are available at most pharmacies. The directions come in the pot package. Add warm saltwater to the pot, tilt your head to one side, and insert the spout of the pot in the upper nostril. The water then flows through one nostril and out the other, flushing the nose and pulling gunk out of the sinuses. I believe that the Neti Pot is one of the most underappreciated preventive-medicine devices.
The Best Way to Blow Your Nose
Don’t: hold both nostrils tightly while you blow or blow forcefully. This can force nasal secretions into the sinus cavities and cause sinus infection.
Do: blow gently, one nostril at a time. This allows snotty nasal secretion to get into the handkerchief instead of into the sinuses.
Savor a "Steam-Clean"
Another way to loosen nasal and sinus secretions is to use a facial steamer (available at pharmacies). Put the steamer on a table or prop it up with a few books. Add 2 drops of eucalyptus oil to the water. Insert your face into the steamer while taking deep breaths of the nasal-flushing warm moist air. To get your mind off your nose, do the "steam-clean" while watching TV. A before-bed steam-clean (even in a warm shower) is particularly useful.
Vaporizers are very good. In winter, turn the heat down and put the vaporizer on. Run a warm-mist vaporizer in your bedroom. The dry winter air of central heating can thicken nasal and bronchial secretions, further compromising your airways. Normally, the airways are lined with millions of tiny filaments, or cilia, which flop back and forth like conveyor belts to move the mucus forward so it can be coughed or sneezed out. Dry air dries out the mucus and slows these conveyor belts. Vaporizers have a double benefit: Besides adding nasal-friendly humidity to dry winter air, a vaporizer acts as a healthy heat source. Steaming sterilizes the water. And, remember your high-school physics? As steam condenses, heat is released; this can keep a small bedroom comfortably humid and toasty. You not only save fuel costs, but you wake up with a clear nose.
While humidifiers are fine, they are not as nose-clearing as vaporizers, especially during colder months. Humidifiers don’t put out hot steam and they are more difficult to keep clean. While the mist does produce humidity, it is not sterile and doesn’t act as a heat source nearly as well as a vaporizer.