flu prevention

  1. Painkillers make flu stronger

    Painkillers help spread flu

    The worst part of the flu isn't always the coughing, sneezing or wheezing. It's not the fever, and it's not the congestion.

    No, for many people the worst part is the pain -- the all-over, body-shaking, muscle-aching misery that hurts in places you didn't even know you had.

    So it's only natural that people with the flu often reach for painkillers.

    But new research shows that while painkillers might give you a little bit of relief from the aches, they can actually help the virus to get stronger and spread more easily.

    It's like chicken soup for the flu virus.

    What makes this especially dangerous is that those painkillers might help you to feel just well enough to go back to work, where the newly charged (and rapidly multiplying) virus could jump to others and make them sick, too.

    As a result, the study finds that painkillers alone could be responsible for as much as 5 percent of all flu transmission. In a bad year, that could mean up to 2,000 flu deaths caused by viruses that have been strengthened and passed around thanks to painkillers.

    The one downside to the study is that it was based on ferrets, then a mathematical model was applied to estimate the effect among humans.

    But I wouldn't dismiss it out of hand, because there's a very simple and basic biological explanation for how these drugs help the flu virus: Painkillers reduce fever.

    I know many people believe reducing a fever is a good thing, but in most cases it's not.

    A fever is actually the best weapon you have against viral illness (and not just flu).

    Because many viruses thrive at normal human body temperature, your body was designed to turn up the heat when you get sick. You get warm... maybe even a little uncomfortable... but in most cases, the viruses die and your body temperature returns to normal.

    That's why reducing fever could actually prolong the misery of viral illnesses such as flu and even help the virus to grow and spread.

    But that doesn't mean you have to be miserable when you get the flu. There are natural ways to avoid the illness, and safe ways to fight back if you do get sick -- and I had the full scoop in the December 2012 edition of my subscription newsletter, Health Revelations.

    Not a subscriber? It's not too late! Sign up today, and you'll get a password giving you complete online access to all my back issues, as well as all my latest groundbreaking cures delivered right to your mailbox every month.

  2. Do hand sanitizers really work?

    While swine flu may not have created the mass wave of illness hyped by the CDC, it did create a new habit for millions of people: hand sanitizer.

    But a new study finds that alcohol-based sanitizers may not prevent cold and flu after all.

    Now, don't throw away your own sanitizer just yet--and I'll tell you why in a moment.

    But first, let's look at the dirty details on dirty hands.

    Researchers asked 116 university students to carry around an alcohol-based sanitizer, while 96 others were asked to follow their usual routines.

    Over the course of 10 weeks, there were 12 flu infections among those who carried around sanitizer, versus 15 among those who didn't. There were also 42 colds in the sanitizer group, versus 51 in the control.

    The study has some flaws, and that's one of them right there--because the researchers say that's not a statistically significant difference, despite that fact that there were roughly 20 percent fewer cold and flu cases among those who used the sanitizer, according to research presented at the annual meeting of the Interscience Conference on Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy.

    If a larger study found a similar difference, we'd be talking about a real win for hand gel.

    There's also another problem here--and that's the nature of creating equal conditions for people who engage in different activities.

    In this case, the volunteers who carried around those little bottles were told to use them every three hours. While that might meet scientific standards in the strictest sense, it fails the real-world test--because it's clearly not the same as using it, say, right after rubbing your hands all over an escalator railing.

    In addition, other studies have found that sanitizers can kill the germs that cause illness--including one by the very same researchers. Earlier this year, they reported that alcohol-based sanitizers are far more effective at removing cold-causing rhinovirus from hands than soap and water.

    But don't choose one over the other--wash your hands when you can, and use an alcohol-based sanitizer when you can't, especially after you've just touched something icky.

    Here are a few more tips:

    • Look for at least 60 percent alcohol. Anything below that will be ineffective. Just make sure that children don't lick their hands after using it.
    • Alcohol can't fully penetrate dirt--so if your hands have any actual filth on them, wash them instead.
    • Avoid dangerous chemical-based cleaners, like the ones that contain triclosan.

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