The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported influenza activity is continuing to increase in the United States. So far, 43 states have reported seeing “widespread transmission” of the flu this season. “We’re already above the peak that we saw last year, and we’re increasing,” CDC medical officer, Dr. Michael Jhung, told the New York Times.
The 2015 outlook for flu season has reached epidemic proportions for a few reasons, according to the New York Times:
- An early start to the flu season, with more people sick in December than usual
- A strain – H3N2 – that tends to make people sicker
- A relatively low vaccination rate
- A mismatch between this year’s flu vaccine and the virus that’s making people sick (H3N2). Even though H3N2 was included in flu shots’ makeup this year, the virus began mutating in March. The vaccine lost some of its efficacy as a result, the Wall Street Journal reported
How Do You Know If You’ve Been Infected with the Flu?
According to the CDC, the usual flu symptoms you should look for include some or all of these symptoms:
- sore throat
- runny or stuffy nose
- body aches
- sometimes diarrhea and vomiting
*It’s important to note that not everyone with flu will have a fever.
6 Tips to Protect Yourself from the Flu
- Practice good health habits. A healthy body leads a healthy immune system. Get sleep and regular exercise, maintain a healthy GI tract, manage your stress, drink plenty of fluids, and eat healthy food.
- Wash your hands – early and often, and with soap and water. If soap and water are not readily available, Dr. Jeffrey Edman, a WellnessFX practitioner, recommends “regular application of hand sanitizer. I don’t touch public restroom faucets and door handles after washing my hands. Seriously. Door handles and faucets have been shown to be highly contaminated.” Some times to be mindful of where hand washing should be a best practice include after contacting people, going to the bathroom, and before meals. For tips on how to make hand washing a habit, try this recent blog post.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth (and other people’s, but mostly because that can be awkward). “I try to avoid touching my face with my hands (which is very difficult to do). People aren’t aware that they do it all the time,” said Dr. Edman.
- Try to avoid close contact with sick people (see above reasoning). If you are exposed to or caring for someone with the flu and are concerned, you can talk to your doctor about preventive antiviral medications.
- Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze and – this is pretty important (…and polite) – throw the tissue in the trash after you use it. Ditch the hanky.
- Avoid sugar. WellnessFX practitioners Karen Graham and Dr. Ross Pelton both warn that a moderate dose of sugar suppresses the immune system for 5-6 hours, lowering the body’s ability to fight off infection. Are you aware of where sugar is hiding in your food?
What Biomarkers Can You Monitor?
Among the different recommended ways to prevent becoming infected and/or the spreading of germs, we believe managing your immune health is a big one, as mentioned in our six preventative tips above. There are specific biomarkers you could track that are related to your immune system:
- hsCRP (High sensitivity C-Reactive Protein): A marker for the overall amount of inflammation in the body can be an indicator for health and a general marker for chronic disease, such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, autoimmune disease, diabetes II, arthritis, and alzheimer’s. Why does hsCRP matter? Because if your body’s inflammatory mediators are chronically busy, they have a harder time stepping in to prevent and fight acute illness. While there are a few ways to test for inflammation, it turns out that high-sensitivity C-reactive protein is the one of the best indicators currently known.
- Vitamin D: One of the easiest ways to boost immunity is manage your Vitamin D levels. According to the Mayo Clinic, the RDA of vitamin D is 600 IU for those 1-70 years of age and pregnant or breastfeeding women, and 800 IU for those over 71 years of age. Stay on top of supplementation and sunshine – both are important. It is important for us to mention that in a Vitamin D discussion we’ve held before, with Dave Asprey, the Bulletproof Executive, and WellnessFX founder Jim Kean, we talked about how it is important to be aware that too much Vitamin D may actually be bad. According to a study done by Johns Hopkins University, too much vitamin D can actually contribute to inflammation. Find your own Vitamin D set point with periodic testing of the biomarker mentioned directly above, hsCRP.
- Cortisol: A stress hormone that reduces the immune response, leaving your body vulnerable to invading pathogens that can make you sick. If your cortisol number is out of range when you get your results (>23 mcg/dL), stress reduction may be in order. Want to read more about cortisol? Check out the blog post “Stress by the Numbers—What High Cortisol Levels Mean to Your Health”
- WBC (White blood cell count): White blood cells defend the body against disease and are a major component of the body’s immune system. The normal number of WBCs in the blood is 4,500-10,000 white blood cells per microliter (mcL).
What to Do If You’ve Already Been Infected with the Flu
If you have any of the symptoms mentioned above, and are concerned, you can schedule an appointment with your physician–unless it’s this fever, then we suggest you keep rocking it. According to Flu.gov, if you are sick with flu-like illness, stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone without the use of fever-reducing medicine. Fever-reducing medicines are more about comfort than the fever causing actual bodily harm, as a fever promotes immune functioning.
How WellnessFX Can Help
To test for the first time (or to retest) these levels, we recommend a WellnessFX Baseline or Performance package – these biomarker packages will tell you where you stand, how to act on the results, and help you to stay out of the flu’s destruction path.
You can even book a one-on-one telehealth appointment with one of our practitioners, like Dr. Edman, for in-depth breakdown of the information and tailored recommendations.
The posts on this blog are for information only, and are not intended to substitute for a doctor-patient or other healthcare professional-patient relationship nor do they constitute medical or healthcare advice of any kind. Any information in these posts should not be acted upon without consideration of primary source material and professional input from one's own healthcare professionals.