Fleeing from the flu: How to keep the bug away, and what you can do once it's gotcha

Did you wake up today feeling like something the dog dragged in? Achy, sweating, drippy-nosed, feeling just-plain-rotten? If so, you've got lots of company.

The flu is an equal-opportunity pestilence, and it's making thousands of people of all ages and colors absolutely miserable lately.

You know you've got a genuine case of the flu and not just another bad cold if you have a fever of 102 or higher. Along with it, your muscles ache and you feel tired - exhausted.

Some unfortunates also have sudden, intense headaches or gastrointestinal symptoms.

Do not go to work if you think you have the flu (you probably do) - you'll only spread the misery to others and prolong your own. Trying to power through it will just get you sicker, longer.

There are, however, some things you can do to ease symptoms and shorten the course of the illness.

Dr. Hannah Albert, a naturopathic physician at Maya Whole Health Studio in Fremont, recommends hydrotherapy and the use of warming socks, castor-oil packs and saunas, among other things.

She also recommends some things you can do at home:

* Most important is rest...and in bed - Your body needs quiet and lots of sleep. That means no computer, no video games, nothing stimulating. Simple, complete rest!

* Drink a glass of filtered or spring water every hour - Pure water helps flush out the toxins in your system.

* Special flu brews - Albert particularly recommends an old European concoction for flu, called Biehler's Broth. To make it, steam zucchini and celery until they're soft, then puree the veggies and broth together with a little fresh parsley. Drink it while it's still quite warm.

Also, you can brew a therapeutic tea by boiling chunks of fresh ginger and four cloves of garlic for around 30 minutes, then add honey and lemon.

* Eat very little, or else fast during fever, to conserve energy so the body can fight the virus - Albert suggests drinking vegetable broth rather than fruit juices, which contain simple sugars and are harder for the body to break down.

* Keep quite warm, even if you're feverish - Sweating is one way your body eliminates the toxins that keep you sick. Native cultures have known this for ages: Make your own "sweat lodge."

The moderate fever that accompanies flu - usually around 102 degrees - is actually a good thing, Dr. Albert emphasizes: "To suppress it is to suppress your body working to heal itself.... [Fever] stimulates the immune system and deters pathogens from reproducing."

In fact, the ideal temperature for elimination of pathogens is 103 degrees. A low-grade fever breaks down amino acids in the muscle tissue, which is why your muscles ache.

"Once the internal pollution is broken down, the body can filter it out through the liver, bladder, lungs and skin," she says.

But temperatures of 105 and higher can be dangerous, she cautions, and mean you should see a doctor.

Of course, the best cure is prevention. "You need to nip it in the bud," the doc says. "When you feel fatigued and cranky - out of sorts - pay attention." You're probably coming down with something.

Here are some ways you can keep the flu bug at bay:

* Wash your hands often - Germs linger on chairs, desktops, door handles or any other object. When you touch the same knob or pen handled by someone with the flu or a cold, you pick up the germs left behind. Then if you so much as touch your eyes, mouth or nose before washing your hands, you may become infected.

* Focus your diet on fresh, whole foods, including fruit and veggies of all colors - Eat them cooked rather than cold and raw; they're easier to digest.

* Eat lots of garlic and onions - They are natural antiviral/antibacterial agents.

* Avoid or limit caffeine intake, as well as refined or processed foods.

* Limit dairy products and red meat, which cause the body to produce mucus (congestion).

* Drink at least a couple of liters of filtered or spring water every day.

* Reduce stress and get good, regular sleep - In fact, go to bed earlier this time of year. Tired, stressed-out bodies are more susceptible to viruses.[[In-content Ad]]