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Flu: The Heroism of Prevention and Containment

Flu shot programs are available in most areas in Canada. If you don’t want to get the shot, you can still provide some protection to yourself and others through other means.

The great thing about non-vaccine methods of protection is that they are natural and not-specific to the type of disease-causing organism.  Although the information is presented here in the context of flu prevention, it can apply to other infectious illnesses too.

Today’s superbugs require super-vigilance.  Take some time during this year’s flu season to learn to be a new kind of superhero – the kind who protects his own health and others’.

What is flu?

Flu is more properly known as “influenza”, and is a serious respiratory illness caused by specific viruses.  Its symptoms include fever, chills, runny nose, sore throat, muscle pain, headache, coughing, weakness, fatigue and, occasionally, nausea and vomiting.

The weakened state caused by the flu can predispose a person to other serious illnesses such as pneumonia.  It can be difficult to distinguish flu from a case of the common cold without doing a lab test but usually the flu is characterized by high fevers of sudden onset and extreme fatigue, symptoms that are less marked and less frequent with colds.

How do you get it?

The flu can be transmitted directly through exposure to contaminated droplets generated by a sneeze or cough.  It can be transmitted indirectly by handling an object that has become contaminated by these droplets, then touching your face, nose or mouth.

It takes more than mere exposure, though, to become ill.  There are also a number of “host factors” that have a big impact on whether or not you contract the flu. These include things such as:

  • hygiene practices
  • the status of your immune system
  • whether or not you smoke
  • your nutritional status

How do you  prevent it?

The two sets of factors that are involved in contracting the flu (transmission factors and host factors) are the things we want to influence in prevention.

You can break the transmission cycle by:

  • washing your hands with soap and warm water before eating, before and after touching your face/nose/mouth, after touching objects or surfaces that others have touched
  • disinfecting surfaces
  • sneezing/coughing into your sleeve rather than your hands or wearing a face mask if you have an infection
  • not sharing personal items such as eating utensils, tooth brushes
  • staying home if you are sick

You can influence host factors as follows:

  • with respect to hygiene, follow the instructions for breaking transmission
  • for immune system factors

– decrease the amount of sugar and processed foods you consume
– engage in regular, moderate exercise
– proactively manage your stress
– ensure you are getting adequate sleep

  • if you smoke, STOP.
  • enhance your nutritional status by ensuring adequacy in these areas:

– Vitamins C and D, and zinc
– hydration
– avoidance of CRAP (carbonated, refined, artificial, processed foods)
– consumption of protective foods such as garlic, onions, ginger, turmeric (in curry), cayenne pepper, honey, mushrooms, peppers, spinach, oysters, sesame and pumpkin seeds

If you become sick:

  • stay hydrated
  • humidify your environment
  • eat soup – it provides lots of nutrition in a form that is easily digested


  • high fever (39C or greater) for more than 3 days
  • chest pain or significant difficulty breathing
  • a cough, congestion or a headache that won’t go away