Sunday, May 22, 2016

Immune System and Diabetes

Whether you're diabetic or not, it is important that you keep your immune system strong to protect you against most diseases and illness, including the flu and the common cold.

Your immune system protects your body against disease by identifying and killing pathogens and tumor cells. It detects a wide variety of agents, from viruses to parasitic worms, and needs to distinguish them from your own healthy cells and tissues in order to function properly. Detection is complicated as pathogens can evolve rapidly, and adapt to avoid the immune system and allow the pathogens to successfully infect their hosts.

When you catch a cold or the flu; or, when you acquire a disease such as diabetes or cancer, the primary reason is due to your weakened immune system and not being able to defend your body against the internal and invading pathogens, the viruses, the accumulated toxins, the cellular inflammation, the cellular dehydration, and the damaged cells caused by the disease.

Consequently, one of the most critical steps in being able to successfully prevent or  defeat any illness or disease is to strengthen your immune system. But, first, let's take a look at how the immune system works.

Then, let's look at how to prevent and treat the common cold and the flu; and, also, how to treat autoimmune diseases (such as multiple sclerosis).

How Your Immune System Works                       

Inside your body there is an amazing protectio­n mechanism called the immune system. It is designed to defend you against millions of bacteria, microbes, viruses, toxins and parasites that would love to invade your body. To understand the power of the immune system, all that you have to do is look at what happens to anything once it dies. That sounds gross, but it does show you something very important about your immune system.

When something dies, its immune system (along with everything else) shuts down. In a matter of hours, the body is invaded by all sorts of bacteria, microbes, parasites... None of these things are able to get in when your immune system is working, but the moment your immune system stops the door is wide open. Once you die it only takes a few weeks for these organisms to completely dismantle your body and carry it away, until all that's left is a skeleton. Obviously your immune system is doing something amazing to keep all of that dismantling from happening when you are alive.

The immune system is complex, intricate and interesting. And there are at least two good reasons for you to know more about it. First, it is just plain fascinating to understand where things like fevers, hives, inflammation, etc., come from when they happen inside your own body. You also hear a lot about the immune system in the news as new parts of it are understood and new drugs come on the market -- knowing about the immune system makes these news stories understandable.

On this web page, we will take a look at how your immune system works so that you can understand what it is doing for you each day, as well as what it is not.
Seeing Your Immune System
Your immune system works around the clock in thousands of different ways, but it does its work largely unnoticed. One thing that causes us to really notice our immune system is when it fails for some reason. We also notice it when it does something that has a side effect we can see or feel. Here are several examples:
  • When you get a cut, all sorts of bacteria and viruses enter your body through the break in the skin. When you get a splinter you also have the sliver of wood as a foreign object inside your body. Your immune system responds and eliminates the invaders while the skin heals itself and seals the puncture. In rare cases the immune system misses something and the cut gets infected. It gets inflamed and will often fill with pus. Inflammation and pus are both side-effects of the immune system doing its job.
Note: When you get a cut, the body also initiates a healing and repair processthat stops the bleeding and forms a scab over the cut.
  • When a mosquito bites you, you get a red, itchy bump. That too is a visible sign of your immune system at work.
  • Each day you inhale thousands of germs (bacteria and viruses) that are floating in the air. Your immune system deals with all of them without a problem. Occasionally a germ gets past the immune system and you catch a cold, get the flu or worse. A cold or flu is a visible sign that your immune system failed to stop the germ. The fact that you get over the cold or flu is a visible sign that your immune system was able to eliminate the invader after learning about it. If your immune system did nothing, you would never get over a cold or anything else.
  • Each day you also eat hundreds of germs, and again most of these die in the saliva or the acid of the stomach. Occasionally, however, one gets through and causes food poisoning. There is normally a very visible effect of this breach of the immune system: vomiting and diarrhea are two of the most common symptoms.

  • There are also all kinds of human ailments that are caused by the immune system working in unexpected or incorrect ways that cause problems. For example, some people have allergies. Allergies are really just the immune system overreacting to certain stimuli that other people don't react to at all. Some people have Type 1 diabetes, which is caused by the immune system inappropriately attacking (beta) cells in the pancreas and damaging them. Some people have rheumatoid arthritis, which is caused by the immune system acting inappropriately in the joints. In many different diseases, the cause is actually an immune system error.
  • Finally, we sometimes see the immune system because it prevents us from doing things that would be otherwise beneficial. For example, organ transplants are much harder than they should be because the immune system often rejects the transplanted organ.
Basics of the Immune System
Let's start at the beginning. What does it mean when someone says "I feel sick today?" What is a disease? By understanding the different kinds of diseases it is possible to see what types of disease the immune system helps you handle.
When you "get sick", your body is not able to work properly or at its full potential. There are many different ways for you to get sick -- here are some of them:
  • Mechanical damage - If you break a bone or tear a ligament you will be "sick" (your body will not be able to perform at its full potential). The cause of the problem is something that is easy to understand and visible.
  • Vitamin or mineral deficiency - If you do not get enough vitamin D your body is not able to metabolize calcium properly and you get a disease known as rickets. People with rickets have weak bones (they break easily) and deformities because the bones do not grow properly. If you do not get enough vitamin C you get scurvy, which causes swollen and bleeding gums, swollen joints and bruising. If you do not get enough iron you get anemia, and so on.
  • Organ degradation - In some cases an organ is damaged or weakened. For example, one form of "heart disease" is caused by obstructions in the blood vessels leading to the heart muscle, so that the heart does not get enough blood. One form of "liver disease", known as Cirrhosis, is caused by damage to liver cells (drinking too much alcohol is one cause).
  • Genetic disease - A genetic disease is caused by a coding error in the DNA. The coding error causes too much or too little of certain proteins to be made, and that causes problems at the cellular level. For example, albinism is caused by a lack of an enzyme called tyrosinase. That missing enzyme means that the body cannot manufacture melanin, the natural pigment that causes hair color, eye color and tanning. Because of the lack of melanin, people with this genetic problem are extremely sensitive to the UV rays in sunlight.
  • Cancer - Occasionally a cell will change in a way that causes it to reproduce uncontrollably. For example, when cells in the skin called melanocytes are damaged by ultraviolet radiation in sunlight they change in a characteristic way into a cancerous form of cell. The visible cancer that appears as a tumor on the skin is called melanoma. 
Viral or Bacterial Infection
When a virus or bacteria (also known generically as a germ) invades your body and reproduces, it normally causes problems. Generally the germ's presence produces some side effect that makes you sick. For example, the strep throat bacteria (Streptococcus) releases a toxin that causes inflammation in your throat. The polio virus releases toxins that destroy nerve cells (often leading to paralysis).

Some bacteria are benign or beneficial (for example, we all have millions of bacteria in our intestines and they help digest food), but many are harmful once they get into the body or the bloodstream.
Viral and bacterial infections are by far the most common causes of illness for most people. They cause things like colds, influenza, measles, mumps, malaria, AIDS and so on.
The job of your immune system is to protect your body from these infections. The immune system protects you in three different ways:
  1. It creates a barrier that prevents bacteria and viruses from entering your body.
  2. If a bacteria or virus does get into the body, the immune system tries to detect and eliminate it before it can make itself at home and reproduce.
  3. If the virus or bacteria is able to reproduce and start causing problems, your immune system is in charge of eliminating it.
The immune system also has several other important jobs. For example, your immune system can detect cancer in early stages and eliminate it in many cases.
Components of the Immune System
One of the funny things about the immune system is that it has been working inside your body your entire life but you probably know almost nothing about it. For example, you are probably aware that inside your chest you have an organ called a "heart". Who doesn't know that they have a heart? You have probably also heard about the fact that you have lungs and a liver and kidneys.

But have you even heard about your thymus? There's a good chance you don't even know that you have a thymus, yet it's there in your chest right next to your heart. There are many other parts of the immune system that are just as obscure, so let's start by learning about all of the parts.
The most obvious part of the immune system is what you can see. For example, skin is an important part of the immune system. It acts as a primary boundary between germs and your body. Part of your skin's job is to act as a barrier in much the same way we use plastic wrap to protect food.

Skin is tough and generally impermeable to bacteria and viruses. The epidermis contains special cells called Langerhans cells (mixed in with the melanocytes in the basal layer) that are an important early-warning component in the immune system. The skin also secretes antibacterial substances. These substances explain why you don't wake up in the morning with a layer of mold growing on your skin -- most bacteria and spores that land on the skin die quickly.
Your nose, mouth and eyes are also obvious entry points for germs. Tears and mucus contain an enzyme (lysozyme) that breaks down the cell wall of many bacteria. Saliva is also anti-bacterial. Since the nasal passage and lungs are coated in mucus, many germs not killed immediately are trapped in the mucus and soon swallowed. Mast cells also line the nasal passages, throat, lungs and skin. Any bacteria or virus that wants to gain entry to your body must first make it past these defenses.
Once inside the body, a germ deals with the immune system at a different level. The major components of the immune system are:
  • Thymus
  • Spleen
  • Lymph system
  • Bone marrow
  • White blood cells
  • Antibodies
  • Complement system
  • Hormones
Let's look at each of these components in detail.
Lymph System
The lymph system is most familiar to people because doctors and mothers often check for "swollen lymph nodes" in the neck. It turns out that the lymph nodes are just one part of a system that extends throughout your body in much the same way your blood vessels do.
The main difference between the blood flowing in the circulatory system and the lymph flowing in the lymph system is that blood is pressurized by the heart, while the lymph system is passive. There is no "lymph pump" like there is a "blood pump" (the heart). Instead, fluids ooze into the lymph system and get pushed by normal body and muscle motion to the lymph nodes. This is very much like the water and sewer systems in a community. Water is actively pressurized, while sewage is passive and flows by gravity.
Lymph is a clearlike liquid that bathes the cells with water and nutrients. Lymph is blood plasma -- the liquid that makes up blood minus the red and white cells. Think about it -- each cell does not have its own private blood vessel feeding it, yet it has to get food, water, and oxygen to survive. Blood transfers these materials to the lymph through the capillary walls, and lymph carries it to the cells.
The cells also produce proteins and waste products and the lymph absorbs these products and carries them away. Any random bacteria that enter the body also find their way into this inter-cell fluid. One job of the lymph system is to drain and filter these fluids to detect and remove the bacteria. Small lymph vessels collect the liquid and move it toward larger vessels so that the fluid finally arrives at the lymph nodes for processing.
Lymph nodes contain filtering tissue and a large number of lymph cells. When fighting certain bacterial infections, the lymph nodes swell with bacteria and the cells fighting the bacteria, to the point where you can actually feel them. Swollen lymph nodes are therefore a good indication that you have an infection of some sort.
Once lymph has been filtered through the lymph nodes it re-enters the bloodstream.
Thymus
The thymus lives in your chest, between your breast bone and your heart. It is responsible for producing T-cells (see the next section), and is especially important in newborn babies - without a thymus a baby's immune system collapses and the baby will die. The thymus seems to be much less important in adults - for example, you can remove it and an adult will live because other parts of the immune system can handle the load. However, the thymus is important, especially to T cell maturation (as we will see in the section on white blood cells below).
Spleen 
The spleen filters the blood looking for foreign cells (the spleen is also looking for old red blood cells in need of replacement). A person missing their spleen gets sick much more often than someone with a spleen.
Bone marrow 
Bone marrow produces new blood cells, both red and white. In the case of red blood cells the cells are fully formed in the marrow and then enter the bloodstream. In the case of some white blood cells, the cells mature elsewhere. The marrow produces all blood cells from stem cells. They are called "stem cells" because they can branch off and become many different types of cells - they are precursors to different cell types. Stem cells change into actual, specific types of white blood cells.
White blood cells 
White blood cells are described in detail in the next section.
Antibodies
Antibodies (also referred to as immunoglobulins and gammaglobulins) are produced by white blood cells. They are Y-shaped proteins that each respond to a specific antigen(bacteria, virus or toxin). Each antibody has a special section (at the tips of the two branches of the Y) that is sensitive to a specific antigen and binds to it in some way. When an antibody binds to a toxin it is called an antitoxin (if the toxin comes from some form of venom, it is called an antivenin). The binding generally disables the chemical action of the toxin.
When an antibody binds to the outer coat of a virus particle or the cell wall of a bacterium it can stop their movement through cell walls. Or a large number of antibodies can bind to an invader and signal to the complement system that the invader needs to be removed.
Antibodies come in five classes:
  • Immunoglobulin A (IgA)
  • Immunoglobulin D (IgD)
  • Immunoglobulin E (IgE)
  • Immunoglobulin G (IgG)
  • Immunoglobulin M (IgM)
Whenever you see an abbreviation like IgE in a medical document, you now know that what they are talking about is an antibody.
Complement System
The complement system, like antibodies, is a series of proteins. There are millions of different antibodies in your blood stream, each sensitive to a specific antigen. There are only a handful of proteins in the complement system, and they are floating freely in your blood. Complements are manufactured in the liver. The complement proteins are activated by and work with (complement) the antibodies, hence the name. They cause lysing (bursting) of cells and signal to phagocytes that a cell needs to be removed.
Hormones 
There are several hormones generated by components of the immune system. These hormones are known generally as lymphokines. It is also known that certain hormones in the body suppress the immune system. Steroids and corticosteroids (components of adrenaline) suppress the immune system.
Tymosin (thought to be produced by the thymus) is a hormone that encourages lymphocyte production (a lymphocyte is a form of white blood cell - see below). Interleukins are another type of hormone generated by white blood cells. For example, Interleukin-1 is produced by macrophages after they eat a foreign cell. IL-1 has an interesting side-effect - when it reaches the hypothalamus it produces fever and fatigue. The raised temperature of a fever is known to kill some bacteria.
Tumor Necrosis Factor 
Tumor Necrosis Factor (TNF) is also produced by macrophages. It is able to kill tumor cells, and it also promotes the creation of new blood vessels so it is important to healing.
Interferon 
Interferon interferes with viruses (hence the name) and is produced by most cells in the body. Interferons, like antibodies and complements, are proteins, and their job is to let cells signal to one another. When a cell detects interferon from other cells, it produces proteins that help prevent viral replication in the cell.
White Blood Cells
You are probably aware of the fact that you have "red blood cells" and "white blood cells" in your blood. The white blood cells are probably the most important part of your immune system. And it turns out that "white blood cells" are actually a whole collection of different cells that work together to destroy bacteria and viruses. Here are all of the different types, names and classifications of white blood cells working inside your body right now:
 LeukocytesKiller T-cells 
 LymphocytesSuppressor T-cells
 MonocytesNatural killer cells
 GranulocytesNeutrophils 
 B-cellsEosinophils
 Plasma cellsBasophils
 T-cellsPhagocytes
 Helper T-cellsMacrophages 
Leukocytes
Learning all of these different names and the function of each cell type takes a bit of effort, but you can understand scientific articles a lot better once you get it all figured out! Here's a quick summary to help you get all of the different cell types organized in your brain.
All white blood cells are known officially as leukocytes. White blood cells are not like normal cells in the body -- they actually act like independent, living single-cell organisms able to move and capture things on their own. White blood cells behave very much like amoeba in their movements and are able to engulf other cells and bacteria. Many white blood cells cannot divide and reproduce on their own, but instead have a factory somewhere in the body that produces them. That factory is the bone marrow.
Leukocytes are divided into three classes:
  • Granulocytes - Granulocytes make up 50% to 60% of all leukocytes. Granulocytes are themselves divided into three classes: neutrophils, eosinophils and basophils. Granulocytes get their name because they contain granules, and these granules contain different chemicals depending on the type of cell.
  • Lymphocyte - Lymphocytes make up 30% to 40% of all leukocytes. Lymphocytes come in two classes: B cells (those that mature in bone marrow) and T cells (those that mature in the thymus).
  • Monocyte - Monocytes make up 7% or so of all leukocytes. Monocytes evolve into macrophages.
All white blood cells start in bone marrow as stem cells. Stem cells are generic cells that can form into the many different types of leukocytes as they mature. For example, you can take a mouse, irradiate it to kill off its bone marrow's ability to produce new blood cells, and then inject stem cells into the mouse's blood stream. The stem cells will divide and differentiate into all different types of white blood cells. A "bone marrow transplant" is accomplished simply by injecting stem cells from a donor into the blood stream. The stem cells find their way, almost magically, into the marrow and make their home there.
Different Roles of White Blood Cells
Each of the different types of white blood cells have a special role in the immune system, and many are able to transform themselves in different ways. The following descriptions help to understand the roles of the different cells.
  • Neutrophils are by far the most common form of white blood cells that you have in your body. Your bone marrow produces trillions of them every day and releases them into the bloodstream, but their life span is short -- generally less than a day. Once in the bloodstream neutrophils can move through capillary walls into tissue. Neutorphils are attracted to foreign material, inflammation and bacteria. If you get a splinter or a cut, neutrophils will be attracted by a process called chemotaxis. Many single-celled organisms use this same process -- chemotaxis lets motile cells move toward higher concentrations of a chemical. Once a neutrophil finds a foreign particle or a bacteria it will engulf it, releasing enzymes, hydrogen peroxide and other chemicals from its granules to kill the bacteria. In a site of serious infection (where lots of bacteria have reproduced in the area), pus will form. Pus is simply dead neutrophils and other cellular debris.
  • Eosinophils and basophils are far less common than neutrophils. Eosinophils seem focused on parasites in the skin and the lungs, while Basophils carry histamine and therefore important (along with mast cells) to causing inflammation. From the immune system's standpoint inflammation is a good thing. It brings in more blood and it dilates capillary walls so that more immune system cells can get to the site of infection.
  • Of all blood cells, macrophages are the biggest (hence the name "macro"). Monocytes are released by the bone marrow, float in the bloodstream, enter tissue and turn into macrophages. Most boundary tissue has its own devoted macrophages. For example, alveolar macrophages live in the lungs and keep the lungs clean (by ingesting foreign particles like smoke and dust) and disease free (by ingesting bacteria and microbes). Macrophages are called langerhans cells when they live in the skin. Macrophages also swim freely. One of their jobs is to clean up dead neutrophils -- macropghages clean up pus, for example, as part of the healing process.

  • The lymphocytes handle most of the bacterial and viral infections that we get. Lymphocytes start in the bone marrow. Those destined to become B cells develop in the marrow before entering the bloodstream. T cells start in the marrow but migrate through the bloodstream to the thymus and mature there. T cells and B cells are often found in the bloodstream but tend to concentrate in lymph tissue such as the lymph nodes, the thymus and the spleen. There is also quite a bit of lymph tissue in the digestive system. B cells and T cells have different functions.
  • B cells, when stimulated, mature into plasma cells -- these are the cells that produce antibodies. A specific B cell is tuned to a specific germ, and when the germ is present in the body the B cell clones itself and produces millions of antibodies designed to eliminate the germ.
  • T cells, on the other hand, actually bump up against cells and kill them. T cells known as Killer T cells can detect cells in your body that are harboring viruses, and when it detects such a cell it kills it. Two other types of T cells, known as Helper and Suppressor T cells, help sensitize killer T cells and control the immune response.
T Cells
Helper T cells are actually quite important and interesting. They are activated by Interleukin-1, produced by macrophages. Once activated, Helper T cells produce Interleukin-2, then interferon and other chemicals. These chemicals activate B cells so that they produce antibodies. The complexity and level of interaction between neutrophils, macrophages, T cells and B cells is really quite amazing.
Because white blood cells are so important to the immune system, they are used as a measure of immune system health. When you hear that someone has a "strong immune system" or a "suppressed immune system", one way it was determined was by counting different types of white blood cells in a blood sample. A normal white blood cell count is in the range of 4,000 to 11,000 cells per microliter of blood. 1.8 to 2.0 helper T-cells per suppressor T-cell is normal. A normal absolute neutrophil count (ANC) is in the range of 1,500 to 8,000 cells per microliter.
One important question to ask about white blood cells (and several other parts of the immune system) is, "How does a white blood cell know what to attack and what to leave alone? Why doesn't a white blood cell attack every cell in the body?" There is a system built into all of the cells in your body called the Major Histocompatibility Complex (MHC) (also known as the Human Leukocyte Antigen (HLA)) that marks the cells in your body as "you". Anything that the immune system finds that does not have these markings (or that has the wrong markings) is definitely "not you" and is therefore fair game. Encyclopedia Britannica has this to say about the MHC:
"There are two major types of MHC protein molecules--class I and class II--that span the membrane of almost every cell in an organism. In humans these molecules are encoded by several genes all clustered in the same region on chromosome. Each gene has an unusual number of alleles (alternate forms of a gene). As a result, it is very rare for two individuals to have the same set of MHC molecules, which are collectively called a tissue type.

MHC molecules are important components of the immune response. They allow cells that have been invaded by an infectious organism to be detected by cells of the immune system called T lymphocytes, or T cells. The MHC molecules do this by presenting fragments of proteins (peptides) belonging to the invader on the surface of the cell. The T cell recognizes the foreign peptide attached to the MHC molecule and binds to it, an action that stimulates the T cell to either destroy or cure the infected cell. In uninfected healthy cells the MHC molecule presents peptides from its own cell (self peptides), to which T cells do not normally react. However, if the immune mechanism malfunctions and T cells react against self peptides, an autoimmune disease arises."

How to Treat the Common Cold              

The common cold is the most common illness in the United States. Infants and children are affected more often and experience more prolonged symptoms than adults. The common cold accounts for approximately 22 million missed days of school and 20 million absences from work, including time away from work caring for ill children

The common cold (also known as nasopharyngitis, rhinopharyngitis, acute coryza, or a cold) is a viral infectious disease of the upper respiratory tract which affects primarily the nose. The common cold encompasses a group of symptoms caused by a number of different viruses.

There are more than 100 different varieties of rhinovirus, the type of virus responsible for the greatest number of colds. Other viruses that cause colds include enteroviruses (echovirus and coxsackieviruses) and coronavirus. Because there are so many viruses that cause the symptoms of the common cold, people may have multiple colds each year and dozens over a lifetime.
Transmission
Colds are transmitted from person-to-person, either by direct contact or by contact with the virus in the environment. Colds are most contagious during the first two to four days.
Direct contact: People with colds typically carry the cold virus on their hands, where it is capable of infecting another person for at least two hours. If a child with a cold touches another child or adult, who then touches their eye, nose, or mouth, the virus can later infect that person.
Infection from particles on surfaces: Some cold viruses can live on surfaces (such as countertops, door handles, or toys) for up to one day.
Inhaling viral particles: Droplets containing viral particles can be exhaled into the air by breathing or coughing. Rhinoviruses are not usually transmitted as a result of contact with infected droplets, although influenza virus and coronavirus can be transmitted via small droplets. Cold viruses are not usually spread through saliva.
Common Cold Symptoms
The signs and symptoms of a cold usually begin one to two days after exposure. In children, nasal congestion is the most prominent symptom. Children can also have clear, yellow, or green-colored nasal discharge; fever (temperature higher than 100.4ºF or 38ºC) is common during the first three days of the illness.

Symptoms include coughing, sore throat, runny nose, and fever which usually resolve in seven to ten days, with some symptoms lasting up to three weeks. The symptoms of a cold are usually worst during the first 10 days. However, some children continue to have a runny nose, congestion, and a cough beyond 10 days. In addition, it is not unusual for a child to develop a second cold as the symptoms of the first cold are resolving; this can make it seem as if the child has a single cold that lasts for weeks or even months, especially during the fall and winter.

Upper respiratory tract infections are loosely divided by the areas they affect, with the common cold primarily affecting the nose, the throat (pharyngitis), and the sinuses (sinusitis), occasionally involving either or both eyes via conjunctivitis. Symptoms are mostly due to the body's immune response to the infection rather than to tissue destruction by the viruses themselves. The primary method of prevention is by hand washing with some evidence to support the effectiveness of wearing face masks.

No cure for the common cold exists, but the symptoms can be treated. It is the most frequent infectious disease in humans with the average adult contracting two to three colds a year and the average child contracting between six and twelve. These infections have been with humanity since antiquity.

The typical symptoms of a cold include cough, runny nose, nasal congestion and a sore throat, sometimes accompanied by muscle ache, fatigue, headache, and loss of appetite. A sore throat is present in about 40% of the cases and a cough in about 50%, while muscle ache occurs in about half. In adults, a fever is generally not present but it is common in infants and young children. The cough is usually mild compared to that accompanying influenza.

While a cough and a fever indicate a higher likelihood of influenza in adults, a great deal of similarity exists between these two conditions. A number of the viruses that cause the common cold may also result in asymptomatic infections. The color of the sputum or nasal secretion may vary from clear to yellow to green and does not predict the class of agent causing the infection.

How to Prevent the Common Cold 
There are several ways you can keep yourself from getting a cold or passing one on to others:
  • Because cold viruses on your hands can easily enter through your eyes and nose, wash your hands often and keep your hands away from those areas of your body.
  • Wash your hands thoroughly and frequently, especially after blowing your nose
  • If possible, avoid being close to people who have colds.
  • If you have a cold, avoid being close to people.
  • When you sneeze or cough, cover your nose or mouth and sneeze or cough into your elbow rather than your hand.
  • Steer clear of anyone who smokes. Secondhand smoke can make you more likely to get sick.
  • Do not use the same towels or eating utensils as someone who has a cold. They also shouldn't drink from the same glass, can, or bottle as anyone else — you never know who might be about to come down with a cold and is already spreading the virus.
  • Alcohol-based hand rubs are a good alternative for disinfecting hands if a sink is not available. Hand rubs should be spread over the entire surface of hands, fingers, and wrists until dry, and may be used several times. These rubs can be used repeatedly without skin irritation or loss of effectiveness.
Handwashing. Handwashing with soap and water is the simplest and one of the most effective ways to keep from getting colds or giving them to others. During cold season, you should wash your hands often and teach your children to do the same. When water isn’t available, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends using alcohol-based products made for disinfecting your hands.

Disinfecting. Rhinoviruses can live up to 3 hours on your skin. They also can survive for up to 3 hours on objects such as telephones and stair railings. Cleaning these environmental surfaces in your home or place of work with a virus-killing disinfectant when people have colds might help prevent the spread of infection.

Vaccine. Because so many different viruses can cause the common cold, the outlook for developing a vaccine that will prevent spreading of all of them is quite a challenge. Scientists, however, continue to search for a solution to this problem.

Immune System. But, your best protection from the common cold and flu is tostrengthen your immune system.

How to Treat the Common Cold
Many people believe that colds and flu are caused by bacteria, but this is simply incorrect. Colds and flu are caused by viruses, and using antibiotics to treat a viral infection is inappropriate and completely ineffective.

Viruses are orders of magnitude smaller than bacteria and have entirely different structures that make antibiotics useless. (Occasionally antibiotics are required if there is a secondary bacterial sinus infection or bronchitis/pneumonia, but this is the rare exception.)

It is also important to recognize that, although a virus triggers your cold or flu symptoms, it is not the real cause of the illness.

The real cause of colds and flu is an impaired immune system.  However, research has confirmed that “catching” colds and flu may be a symptom of an underlying vitamin D deficiency! Less than optimal vitamin D levels will significantly impair your immune response and make you far more susceptible to contracting colds, influenza, and other respiratory infections.

Although there are many ways you might end up with a weakened immune system, the more common contributing factors are:
        Vitamin D deficiency, as previously mentioned
        Eating too much sugar and too many grains
        Not getting enough sleep
        Insufficient exercise
        Inadequately managing emotional stressors in your life
        Any combination of the above

Consequently, perform the following to treat (and prevent) the common cold:
  • Eat a plant-based diet full of vegetables and whole fruits, which provide key nutrients, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
  • Avoid the foods that can weaken the immune system, i.e. fast food, junk food, soda, processed foods, sweets, excess animal meat.
  • Eat, drink the 3 super foods that start with the letter "S": Soups, Salads, andSmoothies
  • Also eat Spinach, Salmon, Strawberries, Sardines, Spices, Stews, Stir-frys
  • Eat, drink more green foods -- they strengthen your immune system.
  • Eat healthy foods such as chicken soup, citrus fruits, ginger, Brazil nuts (for the selenium), garlic, onions, and medicinal mushrooms.
  • Avoid sugar, sweets, salt, soda, fast foods, and animal meat -- they weaken your immune system!
  • Use organic herbal tinctures to get well and feel better a lot faster. 
  • Make sure that you get a lot of rest. For once, enjoy being a couch-potato. :-)
  • Don't try to be a hero and go to work -- you're just going to infect your co-workers!
In addition, consider using one or more of the following alternatives to help treat or prevent the common cold.

Garlic. Garlic has antiseptic, anti-viral, anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and anti-spasmodic properties to name a few. Garlic is highly regarded around the world for its healing properties. Many people use garlic every day as a tonic to maintain health. It is very effective in treating infections in the respiratory tract and when used at the first sign of a cold it can help prevent complications from developing. Garlic is also known for its beneficial effects on the circulatory system where it is known to help lower blood pressure and reduce cholesterol levels. Both garlic and onions have antibacterial properties that can help in treating or preventing colds and some viruses.

Cayenne pepper. Other herbs such as cayenne help to cleanse and detox your body, removing the excess toxins and poisons that may have contributed to you "catching" a cold.

Note: For high quality organic herbal tinctures that will "knock out that cold" and get rid of the runny nose and sore throat, go to the following website. You can use these herbal tinctures as "medicine" and some can be used to gargle with.
http://www.herbdoc.com

Echinacea. Echinacea is an anti-microbial herb. The properties of Echinacea include: anti-viral, anti-bacterial, and anti-fungal. It directly stimulates the immune system by activating the macrophages (immune cells that "eat" invading virus and bacterial cells). Echinacea is non-toxic and effective against a large number of illnesses including acute viral and bacterial infections, colds, flu, skin eruptions, oozing sores and boils. Most researchers have found that the herb may help treat a cold if taken in the early stages, but others found that it had no effect.

Vitamin C. Many people are convinced that taking large quantities of vitamin C will prevent colds or relieve symptoms. To test this theory, researchers have done several large-scale, controlled studies involving children and adults. So far, the data have not shown conclusively that large doses of vitamin C prevent colds. The vitamin may reduce the severity or length of symptoms, but there is no clear evidence of this effect.

Note: Use a natural form of Vitamin C such as acerola, which contains associated micronutrients.
Note: Both Vitamin C and zinc are essential for production of infection-fighting neutrophils -- without adequate levels, you're an easy mark for all types of infections.

Vitamin D3. Take a Vitamin D3 supplement; or, take a tablespoon of cod liver oil, every morning, especially during the fall and winter months.

Oregano Oil. The higher the carvacrol concentration, the more effective it is. Carvacrol is the most active antimicrobial agent in oregano oil.

Propolis. A bee resin and one of the most broad-spectrum antimicrobial compounds in the world; propolis is also the richest source of caffeic acid and apigenin, two very important compounds that aid in immune response and even fight cancer.

Tea. A tea made from a combination of elderflower, yarrow, boneset, linden, peppermint and ginger; drink it hot and often for combating a cold or flu. It causes you to sweat, which is helpful for eradicating a virus from your system.

Olive leaf extract. Ancient Egyptians and Mediterranean cultures used it for a variety of health-promoting uses and it is widely known as a natural, non-toxic immune system builder.

Raw Honey. Some people use honey to treat coughs and to soothe a sore throat. A study conducted at the Penn State College of Medicine compared the effectiveness of a little bit of buckwheat honey before bedtime with that of either no treatment or dextromethorphan (DM), the cough suppressant found in many over-the-counter cold medicines. The results of this study suggest that honey may be useful to relieve coughing, but researchers need to do additional studies.

But, you should never give honey to children under 1 year of age because of the risk of infantile botulism, a serious disease.

Zinc. Zinc lozenges and lollipops are available over the counter as a remedy for the common cold. However, evidence of their effectiveness has been mixed. A recent review analyzing a series of clinical trials suggests that zinc may slightly reduce the symptoms and duration of the common cold in otherwise healthy people, but the use of zinc lozenges was also associated with an increased risk of side effects such as nausea. Variations in the formulation of lozenges and the amount of zinc they contain also it difficult for health experts to make firm recommendations. Researchers need to do more studies to help find out how much zinc is the most effective, and whether zinc is helpful in all circumstances.

Note: In 2009, the Food and Drug Administration warned consumers to stop using intranasal (in the nose) zinc products because some people reported a loss of smell after using these products.

Herbs. Various herbal products such as herbal tinctures, herbal supplements, and herbal teas can be used to treat the common cold and the flu.

Anti-microbial herbs help the body to resist and kill unwanted organisms such as bacteria, virus, fungus and parasites. The properties are often referred to in a more specific way using the terms anti-bacterial, anti-biotic, anti-fungal, and anti-parasitic. An individual anti-microbial herb may have one or more of these properties. Common anti-microbials: boneset, echinacea, garlic, ginger, goldenseal, osha, usnea.

Anti-spasmodic herbs help to relieve muscle cramps and spasms in the body. Common anti-spasmodics: boneset, cramp bark, lobelia, passion flower, skullcap, valerian.

Astringent herbs contract tissues and reduce secretions and discharges. Common astringents: blackberry root, meadowsweet, raspberry leaf, slippery elm.

Demulcent herbs soothe and protect irritated and inflamed tissues, especially in the respiratory and digestive systems. Demulcents contain a lot of mucilage (slippery when wet) which also make them useful for binding herbs together when making pills and lozenges. Common demulcents: comfrey root, marshmallow, slippery elm, mullein leaf.

Diaphoretic herbs promote perspiration and the elimination of toxins through the skin. In the treatment of colds and flu, diaphoretic herbs are used as a general aid in ridding the body of infections and to help regulate fever. Common diaphoretics:  boneset, cayenne, catnip, elder flower, elecampane, garlic, ginger, peppermint, yarrow.

Expectorants herbs help the body to expel mucus from the respiratory tract. Common expectorants: coltsfoot, comfrey, elecampane, grindelia, licorice, marshmallow, mullein.

Tonic herbs help build and tone and are useful in the maintenance of good health. Some tonics are specific for an organ or organ system. Others have a general tonifying action on all the internal organs. Tonic herbs are usually used in large quantities over a long period of time. Some of the herbs listed below also have other properties (detoxifying, relaxant, etc.) that can be an aid in selecting which tonics are right for you. Common tonics: boneset, burdock, cayenne, echinacea, dandelion, garlic, ginseng, licorice, nettles, oats, raspberry, red clover, skullcap, yellow dock.

Children and the Common Cold
With children getting as many as eight colds per year or more, this contagious viral infection of the upper respiratory tract is the most common infectious disease in the United States and the No. 1 reason kids visit the doctor and stay home from school.

Children under six years average 6 to 8 colds per year (up to one per month, September through April), with symptoms lasting an average of 14 days. This means that a child could be ill with intermittent cold symptoms for nearly half of the days in this time period, without cause for concern. Young children in daycare appear to suffer from more colds than children cared for at home. However, when day-care children enter primary school, they catch fewer colds, presumably because they are already immune to a larger number.

Causes
Most colds are caused by rhinoviruses that are in invisible droplets in the air we breathe or on things we touch. More than 100 different rhinoviruses can infiltrate the protective lining of the nose and throat, triggering an immune system reaction that can cause a throat sore and headache, and make it hard to breathe through the nose.

Air that's dry — indoors or out — can lower resistance to infection by the viruses that cause colds. And so can being a smoker or being around someone who's smoking. People who smoke are more likely to catch a cold than people who don't — and their symptoms will probably be worse, last longer, and are more likely to lead to bronchitis or even pneumonia.

But despite what old wives' tales may have you believe, not wearing a jacket or sweater when it's chilly, sitting or sleeping in a draft, and going outside while your hair's wet do not cause colds.

Signs and Symptoms
The first symptoms of a cold are often a tickle in the throat, a runny or stuffy nose, and sneezing. Kids with colds may also have a sore throat, cough, headache, mild fever, fatigue, muscle aches, and loss of appetite. Nasal discharge may change from watery to thick yellow or green.

Contagiousness
Colds are most contagious during the first 2 to 4 days after symptoms appear, and may be contagious for up to 3 weeks. Your can catch a cold from person-to-person contact or by breathing in virus particles spread through the air by sneezing or coughing. Touching the mouth or nose after touching skin or another surface contaminated with a rhinovirus can also spread a cold.

Duration
Cold symptoms usually appear 2 or 3 days after exposure to a source of infection. Most colds clear up within 1 week, but some last for as long as 2 weeks.

Treatment
"Time cures all." That may not always be true, but in the case of the common cold, it's pretty close. Medicine can't cure the common cold, but it can be used to relieve such symptoms as muscle aches, headache, and fever. You can give your child acetaminophen or ibuprofen based on the package recommendations for age or weight.

However, aspirin should never be given to children younger than 12, and all kids and teens under age 19 shouldn't take aspirin during viral illnesses, because such use may increase the risk of developing Reye syndrome, a rare but serious condition that can be fatal.

Although you may be tempted to give your child over-the-counter (OTC) decongestants and antihistamines to try to ease the cold symptoms, there's little or no evidence to support that they actually work. In fact, decongestants can cause hallucinations, irritability, and irregular heartbeats in infants and shouldn't be used in children younger than 2 without first consulting a doctor.

Some ways you can help ease cold discomfort include:
    saltwater drops in the nostrils to relieve nasal congestion
    (you can buy these — also called saline nose drops — at any pharmacy)
    a cool-mist humidifier to increase air moisture
    petroleum jelly on the skin under the nose to soothe rawness
    hard candy or cough drops to relieve sore throat (for kids older than 3 years)
    a warm bath or heating pad to soothe aches and pains
    steam from a hot shower to help your child breathe more easily

But what about chicken soup? There's no real proof that eating it can cure a cold, but sick people have been swearing by it for more than 800 years. Why? Chicken soup contains a mucus-thinning amino acid called cysteine, and some research shows that chicken soup helps control congestion-causing white cells, called neutrophils.

The best plan, though, is not to worry about whether to "feed a cold" or "starve a fever." Just make sure your child eats when hungry and drinks plenty of fluids like water or juice to help replace the fluids lost during fever or mucus production. Avoid serving caffeinated beverages, though, which can cause frequent urination and, therefore, increase the risk of dehydration.

Complications
Most children who have colds do not develop complications. However, parents should be aware of the following signs and symptoms of potential complications.
Ear infection: Between 5 and 19 percent of children with a cold develop a bacterial or viral ear infection. If a child develops a fever (temperature higher than 100.4ºF or 38ºC) after the first three days of cold symptoms, an ear infection may be to blame.
Asthma: Colds can cause wheezing in children who have not wheezed before, or worsening of asthma in children who have a history of this condition.
Sinusitis: Children who have nasal congestion that does not improve over the course of 10 days may have a bacterial sinus infection.
Pneumonia: Children who develop a fever after the first three days of cold symptoms may have bacterial pneumonia, especially if the child also has a cough and is breathing rapidly

When to Call the Doctor
Your doctor won't be able to identify the specific virus causing cold symptoms, but can examine your child's throat and ears and take a throat culture to make sure the symptoms aren't from another condition that may need specific treatment. (If your child's symptoms get worse instead of better after 3 days or so, the problem could be strep throat, sinusitis, pneumonia, or bronchitis, especially if your child or teen smokes.)

Taking a throat culture is a simple, painless procedure that involves brushing the inside of the throat with a long cotton swab. Examining the germs that stick to the swab will help the doctor determine whether your child has strep throat and needs treatment with antibiotics.

If symptoms last for more than a week, appear at the same time every year, or occur when your child is exposed to pollen, dust, animals, or another substance, your child could have an allergy. A child who has trouble breathing or wheezes when he or she catches a cold could have asthma.

Also see your doctor if you think your child might have more than a cold or is getting worse instead of better.

Also call the doctor if your child has any of these symptoms:
    coughing up a lot of mucus
    shortness of breath
    unusual lethargy/tiredness
    inability to keep food or liquids down or poor fluid intake
    increasing headache or facial or throat pain
    severely painful sore throat that interferes with swallowing
    fever of 103 degrees Fahrenheit (39.3° Celsius) or higher, or
    a fever of 101° F (38.0° C) or higher that lasts for more than a day
    chest or stomach pain
    swollen glands (lymph nodes) in the neck
    earache
If your child develops any of the following features, the parent should call their healthcare provider, regardless of the time of day or night.
  • Refusing to drink anything for a prolonged period
  • Behavior changes, including irritability or lethargy (decreased responsive-ness); this usually requires immediate medical attention
  • Difficulty breathing, working hard to breathe, or breathing rapidly; this usually requires immediate medical attention
Parents should call the healthcare provider if the following symptoms develop, or if there are general concerns about the child:
  • Fever greater than 101ºF (38.4ºC) lasts more than three days. The table describes how to take a child's temperature.
  • Nasal congestion does not improve or worsens over the course of 14 days.
  • The eyes become red or develop yellow discharge.
  • There are signs or symptoms of an ear infection (pain, ear pulling, fussiness).
Like most virus infections, colds just have to run their course. Getting plenty of rest, avoiding vigorous activity, and drinking lots of fluids — juice, water, and non-caffeinated beverages — all may help your child feel better while on the mend.

Keeping up regular activities like going to school probably won't make a cold any worse. But it will increase the likelihood that the cold will spread to classmates or friends. So you might want to put some daily routines aside until your child is feeling better.

Constant Runny Nose?
If your child has had a runny nose for more than a week....or maybe more than a month, when should a parent get concerned? When are antibiotics called for? When should tests be done, and what kind?

There are a number of things that can give a toddler a constant runny nose.
Viral illnesses. This is the most common reason for a constant runny nose in a child. The average number of upper respiratory viral illnesses that a young child gets each year is 6 to 10; even more if the child attends day care. The symptoms can last up to four weeks. Since there are so many viral illnesses that occur each year, as the symptoms from one cold begin to go away, here comes another. Viral illnesses do not respond to antibiotics, so you are left with treating the symptoms and waiting for them to go away on their own.
Sinus infection. Another possibility is a sinus infection. Sinus infections are often over-diagnosed in children. But, when a child has had persistent greenish or yellowish discharge from the nose for more than two weeks, a sinus infection is a possibility. Green and yellow nasal discharge is normal during the first week of a upper respiratory viral illness, but this clears after about a week. Sinus infections often require antibiotics.
Allergies. Allergies are also a possibility. If this is the case, an antihistamine can often alleviate the symptoms.
Your doctor should do a complete physical examination to rule out any treatable causes.

More Details
The easiest diagnosis comes when the mucus from the nose ("rhinorrhea") is clear. That represents allergy more than 90% of the time, and the rest of the time it represents something called "vasomotor rhinitis," which means a non-allergic irritant is irritating the nose, and regular medications aren't going to help much. Chronic allergic rhinitis ("rhinitis" = inflammation of the nose) can usually be controlled through oral and/or nasal medications; when it can't, then allergy testing can help identify the offending agents so avoidance measures can be started.

But, if the mucus isn't clear: Almost all doctors agree that cloudy or white nasal mucus indicates a head cold, caused by those nasty viruses that linger in schools, daycare centers and Sesame Street concerts. (Please note that wind, cold weather and running outside with wet hair and bare feet do not by themselves make a child sick.) Head colds may last 5 to 7 days, and typically cause some mild chest congestion before disappearing completely.

What about the yellow or green stuff? Actually, most doctors call this "purulent drainage" but it doesn't necessarily mean anything more than infection. Viruses can cause the mucus to be green or yellow. After a certain amount of days, then doctors might call it "sinusitis" or "upper respiratory infection" and prescribe antibiotics. How long is that time frame? It depends on the doctor, and that depends on the last thing they've read or how sick the child is. Without fever or any other problems, most doctors tell parents to wait 3 to 7 days after the emergence of the yellow/green mucus before prescribing antibiotics.

One thing to keep in mind, by the way, is that nasal mucus typically looks dark when dried or in the first 2 hours of the morning, so that doesn't count. And mucus that changes from clear to discolored and back is most likely a virus.

If the color isn't that helpful, how else can sinusitis be diagnosed? Again, colds last only about 5 to 7 days; anything more than that is usually a sinusitis. Also, colds rarely cause a body temperature of over 101 F, so fever is a good sign of sinusitis (though sinusitis doesn't always cause fever).

Sinus infections also tend to cause more sinus pressure than colds: that feeling of pain over the cheeks or above the eyes, especially when the head is rapidly moved or the face is tapped. Some doctors will take a sample of the mucus and look at it under a microscope for the white blood cells that signify infection.

Sinus X-rays can be helpful in most children, though there are false-negatives (X-rays that look normal even when sinusitis exists). Some doctors have taken to doing limited CAT scans of the sinuses instead, as they are much better as finding sinusitis as well as determining sinus anatomy than conventional sinus X-rays, and usually about the same price.

While most sinus infections can be treated with 10 days of antibiotics, some infections that are long-standing may require 20 to 30 days. Nasal decongestants may help the sinuses drain; but antihistamines may actually make the sinus infection worse, as they sometimes make the mucus thicker and harder to drain. Topical decongestants (the nose drops and sprays) make the child feel better but at a terrible price: overuse of these products actually make the lining of the nose addicted to them, so that the child can't breathe well without using them. So stay away form these as much as possible. A better treatment is salt water (saline) nose drops followed by suction....if your child is of a mind to let you, that is.

What is contagious and what isn't? This is simple: allergies are not contagious; sinus infections are slightly contagious; head colds are very contagious. However, since the majority of children with sinus infections started out having a head cold, we still consider the children contagious as long as there is fever or other signs of active infection. If you have a child with a runny nose for more than a couple of weeks, clear or slightly discolored, and without fever or signs of infection, then that's most likely allergic and not contagious.
Note: For more information and details about preventing and treating the common cold and the flu, get the How to Treat & Prevent the Flu and the Common Cold ebook.
 

How to Prevent and Treat the Seasonal Flu               

Influenza, or flu, is a respiratory infection caused by several flu viruses. Flu viruses are classified as types A, B, and C; type A has a number of subtypes. The flu is not the same as the common cold, nor is it related to what is commonly called the “stomach flu.”

Influenza is an infectious disease of birds and mammals caused by RNA viruses of the family Orthomyxoviridae, the influenza viruses. The most common symptoms are chills, fever, sore throat, muscle pains, headache (often severe), coughing, weakness/fatigue and general discomfort.

Although it is often confused with other influenza-like illnesses, especially the common cold, influenza is a more severe disease caused by a different type of virus. Influenza may produce nausea and vomiting, particularly in children, but these symptoms are more common in the unrelated gastroenteritis, which is sometimes inaccurately referred to as "stomach flu" or "24-hour flu".

Flu can occasionally lead to pneumonia, either direct viral pneumonia or secondary bacterial pneumonia, even for persons who are usually very healthy. In particular it is a warning sign if a child (or presumably an adult) seems to be getting better and then relapses with a high fever as this relapse may be bacterial pneumonia. Another warning sign is if the person starts to have trouble breathing.

Typically, influenza is transmitted through the air by coughs or sneezes, creating aerosols containing the virus. Influenza can also be transmitted by direct contact with bird droppings or nasal secretions, or through contact with contaminated surfaces. Airborne aerosols have been thought to cause most infections, although which means of transmission is most important is not absolutely clear. Influenza viruses can be inactivated by sunlight, disinfectants and detergents. As the virus can be inactivated by soap, frequent hand washing reduces the risk of infection.

Seasonal Flu. Seasonal flu is the term used to refer to the flu outbreaks that occur yearly, mainly in the late fall and winter. Researchers estimate that between 5 and 20 percent of Americans come down with the flu every flu season.

Pandemic Flu. Pandemic flu refers to particularly virulent strains of flu that spread rapidly from person to person to create a world-wide epidemic (pandemic).

Avian (Bird) Flu. In nature, the flu virus also occurs in wild aquatic birds such as ducks and shore birds. It does not normally spread from birds to humans. However, pigs can be infected by bird influenza (as well as by the form of influenza that affects humans) and can pass on the flu to humans. In 1997, researchers discovered that a virulent bird influenza had skipped the pig step and had infected humans directly, causing a number of deaths in Asia.

These instances of bird flu in humans have raised concerns that if this type of flu could at some point be transmitted between people, a new pandemic would occur. Thus, the term bird flu or avian flu is currently being used to refer to a possible pandemic flu.
The flu, like the common cold, is a respiratory infection caused by viruses. But the flu differs in several ways from the common cold. For example, people with colds rarely get fevers or headaches or suffer from the extreme exhaustion that flu viruses cause. The most familiar aspect of the flu is the way it can "knock you off your feet" as it sweeps through entire communities.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 5 to 20 percent of Americans come down with the flu during each flu season, which typically lasts from November to March. Children are two to three times more likely than adults to get sick with the flu, and children frequently spread the virus to others. Although most people recover from the illness, CDC estimates that in the United States more than 200,000 people are hospitalized and about 36,000 people die from the flu and its complications every year.
Seasonal flu outbreaks usually begin suddenly and occur mainly in the late fall and winter. The disease spreads through communities, creating an epidemic. During the epidemic, the number of cases peaks in about 3 weeks and subsides after another 3 or 4 weeks. Half of the population of a community may be affected. Because schools are an excellent place for flu viruses to attack and spread, families with school-age children have more infections than other families, with an average of one-third of the family members infected each year.
How to Prevent the Seasonal Flu
Similar to cold prevention, take everyday preventive actions to stop the spread of germs.
  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub or antibacterial handwash.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. Germs spread this way.
  • Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
  • Strengthen your immune system -- that is your best protection from the common cold and flu.
  • If you are sick with flu–like illness, CDC recommends that you stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone except to get medical care or for other necessities. (Your fever should be gone without the use of a fever-reducing medicine.)
  • While sick, limit contact with others as much as possible to keep from infecting them.
  • Also, antiviral medications, which can treat flu illness, may be used in certain circumstances to prevent the flu.
Influenza viruses can be destroyed by heat (167-212°F [75-100°C]). In addition, several chemical germicides, including chlorine, hydrogen peroxide, detergents (soap), iodophors (iodine-based antiseptics) and alcohols are effective against influenza viruses if used in proper concentrations for a sufficient length of time. For example, alcohol-based hand rubs can be used in the absence of soap and water for hand washing.

How to Treat the Flu
The flu treatment you should take depends on your symptoms. For example, if you have nasal or sinus congestion, then a decongestant can be helpful.

Decongestants come oral or nasal spray forms. Decongestants are used to reduce swelling in the nasal passageways. However, nasal spray decongestants should not be used for more than a few days because, if they are used too long and then stopped, they can cause rebound symptoms.

If you have a runny nose, postnasal drip, or itchy, watery eyes -- then an antihistamine may be helpful for your flu symptoms. Antihistamines block the effect of "histamine," and help relieve such annoying symptoms as sneezing, itching, and nasal discharge.

Over-the-counter antihistamines often make people drowsy, whereas decongestants can make people hyper or keep them awake. Keep in mind that both decongestants and antihistamines can interact with other drugs you may be taking, and they may aggravate some conditions. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist about which flu symptom treatment is best for you.

If your cough is dry and hacking, a cough suppressant that contains dextromethorphan may be the best choice. However, if the cough is bringing up mucus, an expectorant containing guaifenesin is a better option to make the cough more productive.

Alternate every 4-6 hours between taking acetaminophen (2 tablets 325 mg each) and ibuprofen (1-2 tablets 200 mg each) to cover fever and minor aches and pains.

Stay Rested. Resting when you first come down with a cold or the flu helps your body direct its energy toward the immune battle. This battle taxes the body. So give it a little help by lying down under a blanket.

Gargle. Gargling can moisten a sore throat and bring temporary relief. Try a teaspoon of salt dissolved in warm water, four times daily. To reduce the tickle in your throat, try an astringent gargle -- such as tea that contains tannin -- to tighten the membranes. Or use a thick, viscous gargle made with honey or a mixture of honey and apple cider vinegar, a popular folk remedy. Steep one tablespoon of raspberry leaves or lemon juice in two cups of hot water and mix in one teaspoon of honey. Let the mixture cool to room temperature before gargling. Honey should never be given to children less than 1 year old.

Drink Hot Liquids. Drinking lots of fluids and using salt water gargles can often be helpful for easing the pain of a sore throat. Hot liquids relieve nasal congestion, help prevent dehydration, and soothe the uncomfortably inflamed membranes that line your nose and throat. Vegetable soups made with cayenne, garlic, onions, and peppers are very therapeutic.

Drink Elderberry Tea. It shortens the duration of the flu; and, acts a natural Tamiflu, blocking the entry of the virus into your cells.

Take a Steamy Shower. Steamy showers moisturize your nasal passages and relax you. If you're dizzy from the flu, run a steamy shower while you sit on a chair nearby and take a sponge bath.

Try Nasal Irrigation. To ease stuffiness and post-nasal drip -- and perhaps cut the risk of developing a sinus infection -- some doctors recommend nasal irrigation. You can buy a neti pot in natural foods stores and some drugstores, or opt for a saline squeeze bottle. You pour salt water into one nostril and let it run out the other, clearing out your nasal passages. You can buy pre-made saline solution or make it by mixing salt and lukewarm water.

Apply Hot or Cold Packs Around Your Congested Sinuses. Either temperature may help you feel more comfortable. You can buy reusable hot or cold packs at a drugstore. Or make your own. Take a damp washcloth and heat it for 55 seconds in a microwave (test the temperature first to make sure it's not scalding). Or take a small bag of frozen peas to use as a cold pack.

Sleep With an Extra Pillow Under Your Head. This will help with the drainage of nasal passages. If the angle is too awkward, try placing the pillows between the mattress and the box springs to create a more gradual slope.

Increase the Humidity. Humidity helps to relieve flu symptoms and reduce the spread of the virus. Humidifiers are the best option, but you can even boil water on your stove to increase moisture in the air.

Eliminate Stress. Stress on your body will almost certainly extend the period of aches, pains and an upset stomach. Skip work or school. Put aside obligations. Everyone gets sick, so everyone will understand the need for you to slow down for 24 to 48 hours.

Don't Fly Unless Necessary. There's no point adding stress to your already stressed-out upper respiratory system, and that's what the change in air pressure will do. Flying with cold or flu congestion can hurt your eardrums as a result of pressure changes during takeoff and landing. If you must fly, use a decongestant and carry a nasal spray with you to use just before takeoff and landing. Chewing gum and swallowing frequently can also help relieve pressure.

Don't Rely on Flu Vaccine. The flu vaccine doesn't offer any guarantee of protection due to the wide variety of viral flu strains. There is no single virus that causes the flu and there is no single flu vaccine that protects against all strains. Scientists take an educated guess as to what three out of over 300 different flu viruses they expect to have the greatest virulence in the upcoming year. The vaccine is then formulated from these three viruses.

When you get the flu vaccine, your body produces antibodies to these three specific strains of the virus. So you basically have a 3 out of 300 (1%) chance of being vaccinated for the proper viral strain! Additionally, the viruses are always adapting and may change form by the time you are exposed.

Even if you are fortunate enough to receive a vaccine for the proper strain of virus, it will be useless if your body hasn't produced a full response (which takes two weeks) or if there is too much time (over three months) between vaccine and viral exposure. The virus may have adapted over time to create a structure the body fails to recognize.

The vaccine will also be useless if your body doesn't produce enough of a response or too damaging a response due to high levels of viral exposure and poor immune coordination. The immune system could be acting blindly due to high sugar intake, low vitamin D3 levels, damaged gut lining and upper cervical subluxations among other things.

Children and the Flu
Some parents think the flu is a stomach bug. But while children may have nausea, stomach pain and/or vomiting with flu, the key influenza symptoms in children include ahigh fever, chills and shakes, body aches, headaches and a dry hacking cough.
The flu  is highly contagious, particularly when people share close quarters as children do in school classrooms. Flu is spread among children when a child either inhales infected droplets in the air (coughed up or sneezed by an infected person) or when the child comes in direct contact with an infected person's secretions. A person can be contagious one day before onset of symptoms and 5-7 days after being sick. This can happen, for example, when they share pencils at school or play computer games and share the remotes or share utensils such as spoons and forks. Hand to hand contact is also important to consider when thinking about how flu is spread.
Symptoms
The symptoms of flu in children are more severe than symptoms of a childhood cold. Symptoms of flu in children start abruptly and usually cause kids to feel the worse during the first two or three days of onset. Flu symptoms in children may include:
  • a high-grade fever up to 104 degrees F
  • chills and shakes with the fever
  • extreme tiredness
  • headache and body aches
  • dry, hacking cough
  • sore throat
  • vomiting and belly pain
Complications
Some complications of flu in children may include a sinus infection, ear infection, or pneumonia. Call your pediatrician if your child's fever lasts more than three to four days or if your child complains of trouble breathing, ear pain, congestion in the face or head, persistent cough, or seems to be getting worse. Young children under age 2 -- even healthy children -- are more likely than older children to be hospitalized from the complications of flu.
Treatment
There are useful home remedies and over-the-counter medications to treat flu symptoms in children. Keep in mind that antibiotics are ineffective against the flu. Antibiotics are useful to treat bacterial infections. However, the flu is a viral infection and antibiotics will not help. Antiviral medicines are sometimes helpful for high-risk patients if they are started in the first two days of getting sick. They generally only shorten the duration of the flu of one to two days. However, the number one line of defense for flu is a strong immune system. Some common home remedies for flu in children include:
  • getting plenty of rest
  • drinking plenty of liquids
  • using acetaminophen or ibuprofen to lower fever and reduce aches (Both are available in children's formulations.)
Do not give aspirin to children or teenagers. Aspirin may increase risk of Reye's syndrome, a rare disorder that occurs almost exclusively in children and can cause severe liver and brain damage.
The FDA and manufacturers now say that over-the-counter cough and cold medicines should not be given to children under 4, and the AAP states that children under six can have serious adverse effects from them. Talk with your doctor before giving your child an over-the-counter cold or flu medicine.
In very young children with congestion, use a nasal bulb to remove mucus. You may also spray three drops of saline nasal spray into each nostril. Some children may be at increased risk for serious complications from flu. Talk to your health care provider early if your child is younger than 5 years old or has chronic health conditions such as asthma or other lung disease, heart condition, or diabetes.
When to Take Child to Hospital
If your child has one of the following signs, go to the hospital ER or call 911 for emergency care:
  • The child has difficulty breathing and does not improve even after nasal suctioning and cleaning.
  • The skin color appears bluish or gray
  • The child appears sicker than in any previous episode of illness. The child may not be responding normally. For example, the child does not cry when expected or make good eye contact with the mother, or the child is listless or lethargic.
  • The child is not drinking fluids well or is showing signs of dehydration. Common signs of dehydration include absence of tears with crying, decrease in amount of urine (dry diapers),irritability or decreased energy
  • A seizure occurs.
Antiviral Drugs?
Unlike some other infections, when the flu is uncomplicated, it doesn't usually require medical treatment.

Occasionally, doctors prescribe an antiviral medicine if symptoms are reported within 48 hours of onset. But these usually are used only when a child is at risk for serious complications, and they typically shorten the course of the infection by just 1 or 2 days.
In some cases, antiviral drugs can also be used to prevent infection from flu. These drugs block the replication of the flu virus, preventing its spread. In healthy children, antivirals such as oseltamivir (Tamiflu) and zanamivir (Relenza)  may shorten the duration of flu and reduce the severity of flu symptoms.

To help your child feel better in the meantime:
  • Offer plenty of fluids (fever, which can be associated with the flu, can lead to dehydration). If your child is tired of drinking plain water, try ice pops, icy drinks mixed in a blender, and soft fruits (like melons or grapes) to maintain hydration.
  • Encourage your child to rest in bed or on the couch with a supply of magazines, books, quiet music, and perhaps a favorite movie.
  • Give acetaminophen or ibuprofen for aches and pains (but do not give aspirin  unless your doctor directs you to do so).
  • Dress your child in layers so you can add and remove layers during bouts of chills or fever.
  • Ask a close relative or faraway friend to call and help lift your child's spirits.
  • Take care of yourself and the other people in your family! If you haven't done so, ask your doctor whether you (and other family members) should get a flu shot. Also, wash your hands thoroughly and often, especially after picking up used tissues.
If your doctor recommends a prescription medicine to ease symptoms, be sure to call before you go to the pharmacy. Because the flu can strongly affect many areas of the United States, some pharmacies might have difficulty keeping certain medicines in stock.

Emergency Warning Signs


Most people with the flu have mild illness and do not need medical care or antiviral drugs. If you get sick with flu symptoms, in most cases, you should stay home and avoid contact with other people except to get medical care.
If, however, you have symptoms of flu and are very sick with some of the following warning signs, then, contact your health care provider (doctor, physician’s assistant, etc.
Warning signs in children
  • Fast breathing or trouble breathing
  • Bluish skin color
  • Not drinking enough fluids
  • Not waking up or not interacting
  • Being so irritable that the child does not want to be held
  • Flu-like symptoms improve but then return with fever and worse cough
  • Fever with a rash
In addition to the signs above, get medical help right away for any infant who has any of these signs:
  • Being unable to eat
  • Has trouble breathing
  • Has no tears when crying
  • Significantly fewer wet diapers than normal
Warning signs in adults
  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
  • Sudden dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Severe or persistent vomiting
  • Flu-like symptoms that improve but then return with fever and worse cough
Note: For more information and details about preventing and treating the common cold and the flu, get the How to Treat & Prevent the Flu and the Common Cold ebook.
How to Strengthen Immune System       
The functioning of the immune system, like most systems in the body, is dependent on proper nutrition. It has been long known that severe malnutrition leads to immunodeficiency. Overnutrition is also associated with diseases such as diabetes and obesity, which are known to affect immune function. More moderate malnutrition, as well as certain specific trace mineral and nutrient deficiencies, can also compromise the immune response.

Fresh fruits, vegetables, and foods rich in Omega-3 fatty acids help to strengthen the immune system. Vegetables include broccoli, cabbage, yams, carrots, garlic,  onions; and, unprocessed fermented foods.

In traditional medicine, some herbs are believed to stimulate the immune system, such as echinacea, licorice, ginseng, astragalus, sage, garlic, elderberry, and hyssop, as well as honey.

Medicinal mushrooms like Shiitake, Lingzhi mushrooms, the Turkey tail mushroom, Agaricus blazei, Chaga (Inonotus Obliquus), Resihi, Cordyceps and Maitake have shown some evidence of immune system up-regulation in a limited number of clinical studies. Research suggests that the compounds in medicinal mushrooms most responsible for up-regulating the immune system are a diverse collection of polysaccharides, particularly beta-glucans, and to a lesser extent, alpha-glucans.

These medicinal mushrooms offer potent immune system support and many other scientifically verified health benefits including anti-inflammatory, antiviral, antihyperglycemic, anticancer, and cardio-protective.

The following is an overview of the key steps to help strengthen your immune system so that it can defend your body against further damage and initiate the repair processes.

First, you have to educate yourself about disease, drugs, and nutrition. 
Next, you have to stop poisoning your body and stop weakening your immune system!
  • So, stop eating all "dead" processed foods.
  • Don’t eat cooked meat, or processed foods at all.
  • Avoid all processed foods, especially those containing flour, sugar,  HFCS, PHO, soy, or processed vinegar.
  • Avoid all dairy products except raw (unpasteurized, unhomogenized) goat’s milk, and yogurt made from the same.
  • Avoid traditional toothpaste and tap water, which contain fluoride and may inhibit the functioning of the thyroid gland. 
  • Avoid tobacco, alcohol, caffeine, OTC drugs, prescription drugs, and recreational drugs.
Then, you need to nourish your body's cells and tissues  to strengthen your immune system and initiate your body's cellular repair processes and healing mechanisms.
  • Eat lots of raw or lightly-steamed vegetables, some whole fruits, and as many of the top disease-fighting foods and antioxidant-rich foods as possible to strengthen your immune system.
  • Use plant oils, especially first-pressed extra virgin olive oil and extra virgin coconut oil; also, evening primrose oil (GLA). Avoid all vegetable oils, including canola oil.
  • Strengthen your immune system with the raw foods, medicinal mushrooms, detox, and raw juicing.
  • Follow a well-balanced mostly raw diet per the Super Meal Model.
  • Implement raw vegetable juicing, and drink raw vegetable juice at least 2-4 times a day.
  • Cleanse/detox periodically -- at least every 3 months. Use high-quality organic herbs and herbal tinctures. Get the Detox ebook and the Flu/Colds ebook to prevent your immune system from becoming weak, especially during flu season.
  • Use medicinal mushrooms (i.e. cordyceps, reishi, maitake and shiitake) and wholefood supplements (i.e. Vitamin D, echinacea; organic  herbs, herbal tinctures) to nourish your cells and rev up your immune system to produce more NKs.  Get the Supplements ebook for a list of the top wholefood supplements and herbal tinctures that prevent colds and the flu.
  • Use raw garlic (or aged garlic extract), onions, bright-colored peppers, herbs, and organic spices to season your food.
  • Key supplements include: chlorella, digestive enzymes, GLA, iodine, l-glutamine, Omega-3s, MSM, NAC, probiotics, spirulina, Vitamin B-Complex, Vitamin D3, CoQ10, lipoic acid, selenium, magnesium; and, herbs such as ashwagandha, ginseng, ginger, licorice.
  • Exercise consistently. Physical activities like walking, cycling, swimming, gardening, dancing, etc. helps keep one's immune system strong.
  • Note: It is believed that moderate exercises strengthen the body's immune system, whereas, intense exercises suppress the immune system's function. Regular exercises can help get rid of airborne bacterias and viruses from the lungs, that can otherwise lead to upper respiratory tract infections. Stretching exercises also help relieve mental tension, anxiety and stress, thereby lowering one's blood pressure and contributing to good sleep.
  • Avoid OTC and prescriptions drugs like the plague!
  • Use your inner spirit to self-motivate, and obtain emotional support.
Note: If you have an autoimmune disease, PCOS, or if you have issues with your thyroid, get the How to Treat Autoimmune Diseases, PCOS & Thyroid Issues Naturally ebook.  This ebook explains how to treat the more common autoimmune diseases as well as how to optimize the health of your thyroid.

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