Influenza season is here – cough, fever, sore throat, and body aches. And the message is clear all around us: get your flu shot. It’s available at clinics, pharmacies, and even on-site at some workplaces. And the promise is that this will shield us against getting sick this winter. The American Academy of Pediatrics and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend universal influenza vaccination.
But does the scientific evidence bear this out? Three years ago, I pointed out that the best scientific review does not support this stance. Recently, another detailed analysis on the mainstream medical website Medscape concluded that there is no significant clinical or economic benefit to universal flu vaccination.
- The flu vaccine does not improve morbidity (serious disease complications) or mortality (death) outcomes
- The flu vaccine does not reduce the economic impact of time lost from work
Interestingly, they found that the main positive studies regarding the flu vaccine were industry-funded. When they eliminated that major conflict of interest, that’s when they found the emperor had no clothes.
So how should you really protect yourself this flu season?
- Frequent hand-washing: remember, it does not need to be antibacterial soap (influenza is a virus, not a bacterium). Just scrub your hands thoroughly for at least 20 seconds.
- Ensure good vitamin D status: Studies have found that individuals with low levels of vitamin D are more susceptible to flu. A supplement of vitamin D3 (the active form), 2000-5000 IU daily, is a cheap and safe insurance policy through the winter months.
- Don’t skimp on sleep: This is often the “forgotten” foundation of health from a naturopathic viewpoint, because it’s not sexy. But turning off the electronic screens and getting your 7-9 hours of sleep per night is one of the main things you can do to boost your immune system.
- Get extra herbal support when needed: If you’re around a lot of people with upper respiratory illnesses, try beta-glucan rich immune boosters like WholeMune by Ortho Molecular Products. If you get a cold or the flu, load up on andrographis, elderberry, echinacea, vitamin C, and zinc. The keys are to start early (at the first sign of a sniffle or a tickle in your throat), and to dose frequently (every two hours while awake for the first two days). The combo I most often recommend for this is Viracid by Ortho Molecular.