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All you need to know about the flu

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Flu season is upon us and Canadians are already dreading the announcement of this year’s swine/avian/human flu threat.

With flu season comes fevers, runny noses, aches and pains, and absences from work and school. The experience of having the flu can range from minor inconvenience to life-threatening for some.

Because of this, it can be difficult separating fact from fiction and reason from sensationalism when it comes to the flu virus. Experiences can differ from person to person.

Generally, the flu virus is an opportunistic organism and tends to produce symptoms mainly in those with weakened immune systems, such as the elderly and those who are already sick.

While the vast majority of influenza cases are relatively mild and usually self-resolve, for some, getting the flu can be deadly serious.

Fortunately, prevention techniques have become a better public health strategy in recent years, with health officials finally acknowledging that current flu vaccination has had minimal effect on yearly influenza statistics.

While the flu shot was often touted, in the past, as the most effective way to prevent the flu, vaccination cannot prevent an individual person from carrying the live virus on their hands, under their fingernails, and within their respiratory tract.

Also, flu vaccination may not be as effective as once claimed. According to independent research conducted by the Cochrane Database Review: "At best, vaccines might be effective against only influenza A and B, which represent about 10% of all circulating viruses."

So how do we avoid getting the flu in the first place? Simply put, your best defence against the flu, year after year, is always a strong and healthy immune system.

Here’s some tips:

• Proper hand washing techniques consisting of 30 seconds of vigorous scrubbing with warm water. Antibacterial soaps are not necessary to achieve this effect. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers are somewhat less effective but still good when hand washing is not available. This is especially important in schools where kids are often in close quarters.

• Whole foods packed with vitamins and minerals such as vitamins A, B6, C and E help improve immune function. These are found in dark leafy greens and colourful fruits. These foods are jam-packed with Zinc, Iron, and Selenium, which are also beneficial.

• A daily dose of vitamin D has been shown to prevent the flu. Higher doses are often required during the sun-deficient winter months.

• Daily exercise lasting longer than 30 minutes has been shown to slash incidences of all colds and sore throats. Plan some outdoor events with your kids this season and bundle up!

• Avoid refined sugars and sweets. A diet high in sugar can lower your body’s resistance to infection. Is it any wonder why flu season starts around Halloween and ends after Easter?

• Bonus! Regular chiropractic adjustments have been shown to improve immune function. Visit your chiropractor today for regular "flu adjustments."

Hand washing, proper hygiene, nutrition, staying home when you get sick, and trying to keep your immune system strong throughout the winter months are time-tested methods to prevent the spread of the flu. As always, your best defence against the flu is a good offence.

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