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Beyond reading the newspapers, I can tell by the number of e-mails requesting either quick information or phoned-in prescriptions for Tamiflu that the number of flu cases is rising. Despite the scary headlines (any headline about children dead of flu is truly horrifying), the overall number of fatalities remains small.
Symptom-wise, the seasonal flu and H1N1 are similar in otherwise healthy adults: a sudden onset of total body exhaustion, muscle aches, headache, sore throat, cough, and fever. For children, pregnant women, and people with chronic illnesses the danger is pneumonia: a deeper cough, shortness of breath, and mental confusion. These symptoms require hospitalization.
Seasonal flu vaccine is everywhere and, as I’ve said, I do recommend it. H1N1 vaccine thus far is being distributed to practices with high-risk patients (pediatrics, ob-gyn, and specialty internal medicine fields such as hematology). We’ve not received ours, but as you may have read, Goldman Sachs has plenty.
I continue to receive links to vaccine bashers, mainly warning of the dangers of mercury, used in the vaccine solution as a preservative. Your body will clear mercury just as it clears virtually everything else you put into it. I had a patient some years ago who ate either canned tuna or sushi daily for many years and panicked when he read about the mercury issue. When we measured his mercury level, it was virtually zero. You don’t want to see the words “Well, at least she had no discernible mercury” on the tombstone of an unimmunized loved one who succumbs to the flu.
Also, I must say that there is some sort of malicious irony in a world where the same federal government currently hand-wringing because it’s unable to distribute flu vaccine fast enough manages to find time to send warning letters to several respected and knowledgeable integrative physicians, among them Andrew Weil (he actually coined the term “integrative”), to stop recommending herbal immune boosters because they’re “unproven” and apparently may lead to a false sense of confidence. I myself am taking mushroom-based Host Defense to shore up my immune system.
Regarding Tamiflu: use it when you’re coming down with the flu. Start it in the first 24 hours, if possible. Make sure you’ve got the flu and not just a cold or a sore throat (for the difference between the two, click here ). If you’re a patient in our WholeHealth Chicago practice, send me an e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org), including your full name and the phone number of your pharmacy. If you’re not in our practice, contact your primary care doctor. If you don’t have a primary, use one of the drugstore mini-clinics. They’re staffed by smart and efficient Certified Nurse Practitioners who can write you a Tamiflu prescription on the spot.
If your immediate family has the flu but you don’t, get the Tamiflu anyway. The dose is different for the haves and the have-nots: if you have the flu, take one 75-mg capsule twice daily for five days. If you don’t have the flu but everyone else does, take one capsule daily for ten days.
All the standard symptom-relief advice applies: rest, clear fluids, ibuprofen or Tylenol, tea with honey, throat lozenges, and chicken soup. Stay home. Catch up on all the programs you’ve recorded.
David Edelberg, MD