Staying Flu-Free This Summer

Still worried about swine flu? Forget the masks and Tamiflu. Sleep more, exercise more and have sex. Your immune system will thank you.


Gone are the days when a sneeze elicits a simple “God Bless You.” Even as swine flu hysteria dies down, germ-spreading sneezes and coughs are more likely to provoke muttered curses and an exodus toward the door than a polite nod for the Lord to watch over you. 

Media hype and confused public health directives aside, swine flu, or H1N1 influenza, is a serious issue.  People are taking all kinds of measures to keep from getting ill.  Pharmacies have run out of Tamiflu as panicked citizens medicate, even in the absence of symptoms. But taking unnecessary medications is exactly what doctors advise against.  Improper use of antibiotics has spawned drug-resistant strains of flu, and ordinary viruses have mutated into stronger terminator-like super bugs, which we don’t have a vaccine for. 

And taking antibiotics is hard on the body.  They can weaken our immune system leaving us less able to fight off germs.  The result is that we’re more susceptible to opportunistic illnesses that often come with more serious symptoms, complications and even death.

Michael Jackson-like germaphobes have taken to sporting surgical masks for protection. But most experts agree that ordinary surgical masks are largely ineffective.  The generic masks don’t provide a high level of particle filtration or secure seal on the face and won’t protect your airway from infectious airborne particles.

There has even been talk around the Web about the benefits of throwing a “flu party,” akin to "chickenpox parties," where sick children are placed with healthy ones to infect them with the chickenpox virus in order to get the sickness out of the way. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warns that since it’s unknown how an individual will be impacted by the infection, it would be a big mistake to put adults and children at risk.

So what can you do to avoid the flu? The best defenses are your natural ones. Strengthening your immune system will do wonders to ward off the flu and other pesky illnesses. The immune system is made up of a collection of different cells that work together, but it’s the white blood cells, called lymphocytes, that are the army in charge of fighting off bacterial and viral infections.

Overall good health translates into a healthy immune system, but there are some specific things that you can do to increase your resistance.

·        Manage stress.  When the body is overly stressed, it releases a steady stream of stress hormones, like cortisol and adrenaline, which negatively impact the body's ability to stay well. 

·        Get your rest, every night. Prolonged sleep deprivation wears down the immune system while getting adequate helps to boost your defenses.