Achy body, pounding head, chills, fever, sore throat…sounds like you’ve caught the bug going round. Influenza or flu is hitting early and hard this season. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), this year’s flu season is well under way and living up to its expected severity1. The strain of flu, H3N2, is largely responsible for the misery of the current outbreak. H3N2 last made the rounds during the 2003-4 flu season. Now, as then, it arrived early and was severe . Flu is caused by a virus, not a bacteria, so antibiotics don’t help. If you’re one of the unfortunate people who become infected you’ll be sick for a week or more depending on your immune system and how well you take care of yourself. For the elderly, young, or those with compromised immune system flu isn’t just an inconvenience but can be deadly. Each flu season claims many lives and makes many sick. The CDC estimates that during a typical flu season 5-20% of the U.S. population will get the flu, 200,000 people will be hospitalized, and as many as 40,000 will die.2
What can you do to protect yourself? The number one best practice for preventing the flu is as simple as washing your hands. Often. Soap and warm water is all that is needed. There are gel based antiseptic hand rubs and soaps, which should be used with caution if at all. Many of these hand rubs contain antibiotics such as Triclosan, which has now been found in human breast milk3. More so, the widespread use of antibiotics is helping to promote the development of drug resistant strains of bacteria. In addition, the alcohol in these products can dry the skin causing chapped and cracked hands, which not only is uncomfortable but is also an entryway into the body for disease causing microbes. While there is a vaccine available for the flu many people opt for natural and traditional methods of staying healthy.
Essential oils were some of the first medicines used by humans. They have been shown to be effective against flu virus and can also be used to help relieve the severity of flu symptoms. Use a 3-pronged approach to taking care of yourself with essential oils:
Strengthen – Lemon, thyme, and niaouli oils can be used to boost your immune system. These oils are best when used in a blend diluted with a carrier oil such as jojoba and rubbed on the feet cnd chest.
Protect – Thyme, niaouli, and cinnamon bark oils can be diffused into the environment to help reduce the viral load. A blend of these three workhorses can help keep your home safe from flu.
Relieve – Eucalyptus, thyme, and peppermint can help loosen congestion and help you breathe more easily. Put several drops of a blend of these oils into a steaming pot of water and breathe the vapors in deeply. Cover your head with a towel to increase the effect.
Influenza can make you feel miserable for days. Take preventative measures to help keep yourself and your family healthy this flu season.
3 Triclosan in plasma and milk from Swedish nursing mothers and their exposure via personal care products. Sci Total Environ. 2006 Dec 15;372(1):87-93. Epub 2006 Sep 26.
Author: Andrew Barber, RN, BSN is a pediatric registered nurse and co-owner of Ancient Ways Botanicals, LLC www.ancientwaysbotanicals.com