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Nasal Rinsing, the Flu, and More Tips


That Dreaded Flu Virus and Helping Your Body’s Own Defense System

By Hana R. Solomon, M.D.

Influenza, or "the flu," is caused by the influenza virus, a specific respiratory virus that affects specific species. Now we are learning about mutations which allow these viruses to originate in one species (for example in birds or pigs) and then spread to and infect humans. The resulting illness is severe and can be life threatening.


Children, the elderly and those who have underlying medical conditions are at greatest risk for complications. Full‐blown symptoms of the flu often develop almost immediately. “I was fine before lunch, and then I felt like I was hit by a Mack truck,” is a common complaint.


Symptoms include fever, headache, extreme tiredness, dry cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, and significant muscle aches. Children can also experience nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Someone with influenza will appear very ill, and their entire body will be affected, every muscle feeling sore, tired, and toxic. Influenza is spread mainly through respiratory droplets, by coughs and sneezes from infected people. A typical sneeze can propel up to one hundred thousand droplets through the air.


The Center for Disease Control (CDC) , www.cdc.gov offers suggestions for influenza prevention:

1. Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.

2. Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze.

3. Alcohol based hand cleaners are also effective.

4. Try to avoid close contact with sick people.

5. If you get the flu, CDC recommends that you stay home from work or school and limit contact with others to keep from infecting them.

6. Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs spread this way.

But you can do more to protect yourself!

Here are some simple facts you should know about your body’s defense system: The nose is the body’s natural filter, functioning effectively to prevent bacteria and viruses from reaching the throat and lungs. Studies have found that nose washing can take a lot of the misery out of the common cold (a virus similar to influenza.) The people who wash their nose find significant improvement in throat pain, coughs, nasal obstruction, and secretions. Follow up data confirms fewer medications are needed when the nose is washed regularly: decongestants (5% vs. 47%), mucolytics (10% vs. 37%), systemic antibiotics & antiviral medications (6% vs. 21%). In addition, nose washers report significantly fewer illness days (31% vs.75%), and fewer complications (8% vs. 32%).

Never fear, nasal washing is well tolerated. One does not need to be an ear nose and throat specialist to figure out that washing the personal filter two to three times per day can do no harm and may be very beneficial, so why not?

The following are my common sense flu prevention guidelines.

1. WASH your nose with buffered hypertonic saline at least twice per day, today, before anyone around you becomes ill.

2. Start self‐care measures at the very first hint of onset. Don't rub your eyes or nose.

3. Keep the mucus flowing out.

4. Stay hydrated.

5. Skip antihistamines, which can dry nasal membranes, thicken mucus and slow the mucus flow.

6. Decongestants can help ease stuffiness because they shrink swollen tissue inside the noses. But remember, nasal decongestant sprays can worsen congestion if used for more than two or three days.

7. Remember: Humidity helps reduce congestion.

8. Soups (yes, chicken soup) and most warm fluids are helpful. The warmth helps loosen the mucus; the nutrients are good for you.

9. Avoid close contact unless necessary.

10. And most important: Help your body stay healthy by washing the filter. It only makes good sense, and common sense is often the best medicine.

Be Well, Dr. Hana
 
     


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