Friday, October 30th, 2009

Outsmart Swine Flu



swine fluJust like humans get flu, pigs get it too, hence the name ‘swine flu’. In the past only humans who were in direct contact with pigs could get infected with this virus, but in the present outbreak the virus has mutated which allows it to pass from human to human with reduced virulence.


Symptoms are similar to influenza like condition—

• Sore throat
• Chills
• Body ache
• Severe headache
• Coughing
• Weakness

Every year the change of weather is followed by increased episodes of flu and flu like conditions. This year there is a new bug doing the rounds of the town called H1N1 virus or swine flu. D r Sushila Kataria, senior Internal Consultant with Paras Hospitals, says, “There are many viruses and bacteria in the air, but you don’t fall ill by breathing it because you have immunity against it. Whenever we develop an infection or ailment our immune system remembers the offending bugs and develops a counter mechanism to defeat it. This is missing in the case of swine flu as the virus is new and we don’t have any immunity against it.” You need to be cautious about this new form of flu for the reason that it has reached pandemic levels. Pandemic is an epidemic of infectious disease that is spreading in large population.

This brings us back to the question how we can bolster immunity? There are no short cuts to boost immunity, tells Dr Kataria
“For boosting immunity you’ve to focus on what you eat, how you handle stress and how much do you exercise,” points out Ritika Samaddar, Chief Nutritionist with Max Health care. Antioxidants are helpful in enhancing our immunity because they are scavengers of free radicals which are linked with diseases like cancer, cardiovascular disease and ageing. To get antioxidants you don’t need to scout high and low. There are four super antioxidants—vitamin C, E, A and selenium and you can get these through a variety of fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grain cereals, legumes, tea and red wine Food high in antioxidants include fruits such as apple, grape, grapefruit, cranberry, blackberry and blueberry.
With fruits and vegetables the golden rule is to colour your plate. Deeper the hue of a veggie or fruit more enriched it is with antioxidants. This means that pale green brinjals have less amounts of antioxidant as compared to the purple ones.

Alternate way

Gurgaon based Homeopath, Dr Vidhi Trikha says, “Homeopathy has medicines which can be used as preventive measure against swine flu.” Naturopathy practitioners recommend the combination of tulsi and giloy to enhance your immunity. Dr Dheeraj Yadav, consultant Naturopathy with Delhi based Tulsi Holistic Clinic says, “I’ve been recommending giloy and tulsi to my patients of cancer and diabetes for many years now, and the results have been encouraging. Giloy juice in particular helps enhance immunity of the patients even of those who are undergoing chemotherapy.” Dr. Preeti Chabbara, consultant Ayurveda at Ganga Ram Hospital adds, “Tulsi has anti-viral properties and it enhances your immunity which can help you sail through the change of weather.”
Now you know your grand mom was right when she advised you to chew on few sprigs of tulsi leaves on an empty stomach to combat seasonal flu.

Meticulous hygiene practices can help you keep bugs out of your way. These include–
• Wash hands often with soap
• Sneeze in the tissue and throw used ones in the dustbin
• Do not touch your eyes and mouth
• Stay at home when you are not well

Overseas travellers

Dr Rajeev Dang, Consultant Internal Medicine with Max Hospitals Gurgaon says, “Overseas travelers, especially if you’ve visited the affected areas should monitor their health for seven days after the visit. If you develop flu like illness, within this duration you should start preventive measures and contact your doctor.”

Most private hospitals have Rapid Testing Kits to detect swine flu. “However, the results of these kits are not very accurate and if you test positive, you need to get tested at National Institute of Communicable Diseases, New Delhi once again,” added Dr. Kataria.

Can gas masks protect you from swine flu?

WHO recommended N-95 masks are too much in demand these days, so much so that they have run out of stock. Dr. Kataria says, “In case of any flu one should wear a mask so that you do not pass on the germs.”
N95 masks are meant for health professionals who are dealing with people infected with H1N1 virus. Internal-consultants like me working in private setups are using triple layered mask and masks are meant for one time use only not for more than 6 to 7 hours at a stretch. While disposing masks, do not throw it in the dustbin, rather you have to boil it for ten minutes before you get rid of it. Like any flu, swine flu spreads through contact and emphasizing on hand washing can arrest the spread of the virus.

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Category: Cold & Flu
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