Staying Healthy During Flu Season
You just can’t escape it: The flu. Wellness author Dr. Jacob Teitelbaum advises how to stay healthy whether you are traveling or staying home. His tips include not panicking and — get this — even enjoying a little dark chocolate.
We sought out the advice of Dr. Jacob Teitelbaum, author of the free popular iPhone & Android application “Cures A-Z,” and of the best-selling book From Fatigued to Fantastic!, to get his tips for fighting back infection during flu season.
Dr. Teitelbaum advises how you can stay healthy — healthy enough to take that backpacking trip you’ve been looking forward to.
The good news? Dr. Teitelbaum’s advice involves not panicking, soaking up plenty of sunshine and — get this — even enjoying a little dark chocolate. Take that, flu!
Here are excerpts from our conversation with Dr. Teitelbaum on how you can stay flu-free this season:
Q. How do you know you have the flu and not just a cold?
A. With the flu you have a higher fever and widespread, body-wide aches, whereas with a cold it’s more centered around the respiratory area — throat and nose. With the flu, you are aching all over — that is the distinction.
Q. How do you know when you are too sick to travel?
A. By the time you are asking that question, you already are. Do yourself — and the people around you — a favor, and stay home.
Q. Should I get a flu vaccine? Will it protect me from this year’s flu? And should I get the vaccine right before I travel?
A. You do want to get the flu vaccine, but a week or two ideally before you travel. The longer you take it before a trip, the longer the time your body has to build the immunity. Also, you want to be sure you are taking zinc — that is critical for the vaccine to take hold. I suggest 15 to 25 milligrams of zinc before and after you get the vaccine.
Q. Will the vaccine given in the US protect me in other parts of the world?
A. Yes, it’s the same flu that travels around the world.
Q. What should travelers carry with them during flu season?
A. No. 1 — Zinc lozenges. (I carry them in my personal travel kit.) No. 2 — ProBoost, a little hard to find, but I recommend it in everyone’s travel kit. It helps makes a hormone that stimulates immunity; it knocks out any bug you may have picked up within 24 hours. No. 3 — vitamin C for prevention. Emergen-C packets are great; they provide a high dose of vitamin C, but without the juice. Lots of sugar in juice will suppress your immune system.
Q. How can travelers avoid getting sick when flying — is there anything you can do to protect yourself if you're on a plane with a bunch of coughing/sneezing passengers?
A. Stay hydrated is the No. 1 thing to do. No. 2, turn off the overhead air jets. I tend to turn off air jets above my seat (and if I can, I turn all of them off in my row). It can’t be a good idea to have all those germs blowing around.
Q. What are the No. 1 places where a traveler can pick up the flu?
A. Places where people are putting their hands, like doorknobs and handrails. The main way the flu is spread is with people sneezing into their hands and then touching a doorknob. The flu is spread hand-to-mouth, mouth-to-hand. Wash hands after being in public places. And avoid touching your mouth while traveling.
Q. What foods and/or changes to your diet do you recommend to boost your immune system around and during your time of travel?
A. Simply avoiding excess sugar is the main thing — avoiding sodas and juices. One can of cola suppresses your immune system by 30% for 3 hours. A to-die-for dessert is worth the sugar, not a can of soda.
Q. We know it's important to wash our hands — what else?
A. Prevention — get your sleep. Quickest way to suppress your immune system is to sleep-deprive a person. Get good sleep. In fact, I love red-eye flights; I am asleep on the plane by the time it takes off and I’m awake when the wheels hit the tarmac. Melatonin helps you sleep and helps with jet lag, too. I set my clock to my arrival time [on red eyes], then when I wake up I see that time and my body sees that time.
Q. What do you do if you get the flu while you’re traveling?
A. If you find yourself with a rip-roaring bug, I find, personally, that's when my body's saying it is time for a rest. It’s your body’s way of saying you need a time-out. So honor that. Do your thing and then go to bed … do what must be done, then go to bed and rest. You should do the same thing you would do at home — go to bed. Drink warm fluids to flush and wash out the virus. I recommend zinc throat lozenges — 20 milligrams, 4 times a day. Zinc stimulates immune systems.
Q. Is it true you give your kids dark chocolate when they are sick?
A. Yes. Dark chocolate is effective for suppressing persistent coughs, as effective as codeine.
Q. You live in the Aloha State; how do Hawaiians stay healthy?
A. No. 1 way? We get plenty of sunshine. Vitamin D is critical for immune system and health. The advice to avoid sunshine should be in the Hall of Medical Shame. Avoid sunburn, not sunshine! If you get sunshine, your body will avoid infections better.