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What Can TCM Do For You During The Flu Season?

By Qineng Tan

The holiday season is just around the corner. But don't forget this is flu season as well. Generally, most flu activity in the US occurs from November through March. In an average year, more than 100,000 Americans are hospitalized, and more than 20,000 deaths are related to the flu.

The "flu," also called "influenza," is a highly contagious respiratory infection. The flu, compared with the common cold, often causes more severe illness. People with the flu can have a fever, (usually 100 to 103 in adults and often even higher in children), cough, sore throat, extreme fatigue, muscle aches, headaches, runny nose, and watery eyes. Children can also experience vomiting and diarrhea. Some older people might not suffer from fever. Flu-related complications can occur at any age; however, older people or those with chronic health problems, particularly heart or lung disease, are much more likely to develop serious complications and influenza infection than those that are younger and healthier.

The best way to treat a disease is to prevent it.  It is absolutely a bad idea to wait to dig a well until you are thirsty. So, do something to enhance your Qi now, before the influenza virus shoots you down. Chinese herbs such as Huang Qi (Astralagus) and Dang Shen (Codonopsis) are used to strengthen Qi and to boost the immune system. Herbs such as Ban Lan Gen (Isatis) and Da Qing Ye (Daqingye) are commonly used as anti-virus herbs in China.

In China depending on the type of virus, special anti-virus teas are usually given to public schools to help prevent illness during the flu season.

Acupuncture can help rebalance energy, regulate the Qi and stimulate the immune system. Several clinical studies have demonstrated that acupuncture and herbal medicine in particular reduce the incidence of upper respiratory tract infection and shorten the length of time one is ill. When you get sick with the flu, do not wait. Start acupuncture treatments in the early stages. It may help eliminate pathogenic influences.

Regular exercise of sufficient intensity (to warm you up, but not to make you sweat- not overdoing it) has been shown to reduce the incidence of the flu. Exercise such as Qi-gong, Tai-Chi, and Yoga can help reduce emotional and physical stress. It also strengthens the immune system and prevents disease from arising.

Keep a good diet. Make sure to eat a full balanced diet that is rich in vitamins, antioxidants, and minerals. Foods containing beta-carotene are thought to help boost your immune system and keep your mucous membranes and upper respiratory system healthy and harder to infect. Carrots, broccoli, sweet potatoes, garlic and tomatoes are high in beta-carotene. Eating lots of them during the flu season may help you avoid illness, or recover sooner.

Drink water to prevent dehydration. Ample liquids can help your body flush the invaders and the debris from their battle with your immune system. Chicken soup is recommended because it adds extra water and expels mucous to help you get rid of the illness. Try to drink an 8-ounce glass of water every hour. This is very important to help your body recover from the flu.

Extra rest will help you save energy for battling the illness. This is particularly important if you became sick when you were already tired or run down. Get more sleep and take a nap in the afternoon; it will help you recover faster.

You have my best wishes in staying healthy!  

 


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