We are in the midst of one of the worst flu outbreaks in recent years. For example, Massachusetts General Hospital has already treated more confirmed flu cases than it did by this time during the swine flu “pandemic.” You don’t need to check the Center for Disease Control’s national flu trend map to know that’s the case. You probably know two or more people that have caught the flu, or you may have been one of its casualties this year. Already, the number of cases is much higher than in recent years.
How do you know if you have it? The typical symptoms are fevers (around 100 degrees F), chills, exhaustion, cough, chest congestion, sinus congestion and pressure, runny nose, sometimes sneezing early on, and body aches that can present with neck stiffness or severe lower back pain. This one seems to hit with a curious new symptom – pain behind the eyes when moving them or just focusing. A nasal swab can be done by a doctor to confirm if you have it, but this type of testing is not 100% accurate.
What’s confusing is that even though experts continue to encourage the flu shot, claiming that it is well-matched to the predominant circulating H3N2 strain of this flu virus, I have observed in my practice a preponderance of patients getting the flu that received the flu vaccine. So I ask, “If the flu vaccine was so well-matched, why is this one of the worst flu seasons in years?”
Well, part of the answer is that not all individuals respond well to the flu vaccine. In the elderly or chronically sick adults, the flu vaccine may not create high enough titers of protective antibodies to the flu.  This leaves these individuals still at risk for getting the flu. In addition, even though the flu vaccine may generate protective antibodies in others, it often does not exactly match all the circulating strains of the flu virus, which is compounded by their ability to mutate even in the midst of a flu season.
Yet, do you ever ask yourself why there is no flu in the summer? In my book response to the swine flu pandemic, “The Ultimate Swine Flu Survival Guide,” I explain how a British scientist theorized that the missing factor was vitamin D. Vitamin D levels drop dramatically by late fall, and since vitamin D regulates over 2,000 genes, many of which are involved in not only regulating the immune system but also promoting the formation of antimicrobial peptides that can attack microbial invaders directly, it is no wonder that low vitamin D may be a big factor in our susceptibility to the flu and one’s ability to recover quickly.
With the majority of U.S. adults vitamin D deficient, susceptibility is high. For these reasons, Vitamin D is an important part of my natural flu treatment protocol which helps patients recover from the worst symptoms – fevers, chills and body aches – within 48 hours.
Dr. Pedre’s Natural Flu Treatment Protocol:
Oscillococcinum®: At the first sign of symptoms, this homeopathic remedy can help activate your immune system to eliminate the flu and flu-like symptoms. Start with 1 vial of sublingual pellets every 6 hours. It is safe for children ages 2 and above.
Sambucol® (Elderberry Extract): Several studies have shown the efficacy of Sambucol against the flu virus.   At the earliest sign of symptoms, start taking 15 mL every 4 hours while awake. As a preventive (if you’re surrounded by sick people with the flu), take 15 mL (about 1 tablespoon) daily. It is also safe for children to take, but only use 5 – 10 mL for each dose.
Vitamin D3: Everyone who lives north of the 35 degree latitude (approximately Raleigh, NC) is likely vitamin D deficient by December. All adults should be taking between 2,000 – 5,000 IU daily during the winter months. 
At the first sign of flu symptoms, take 50,000 IU’s all at once. This seems particularly protective of the worst consequences of the flu, including pneumonia that may lead to hospitalization.
A Note on Fevers:
Even with these natural remedies, you may still get a fever, but as long as it is not dangerously high over 101oF, remember that fever is the body’s natural protective mechanism against viruses. The flu virus simply cannot replicate well at these higher temperatures, whereas the body’s own processes speed up with a fever. It basically helps you fight off the virus even faster.
Caution with Fevers: Always consult with your doctor if you have had low-grade fevers for more than 24 hours, or a fever higher than 100.5oF.
Epsom salt: Once your fever has subsided, you may still have body aches. I have found that soaking in a bath with Epsom salt really helps alleviate sore muscles from the flu.
Here’s my Ultimate Muscle Relief Bath Recipe:
2 cups Epsom salt
½ cup Baking soda
10 drops Lavender Essential Oil
If you can add 1-2 cups of Bentonite clay to the bath even better.
Soak for 20 minutes.
Good luck in warding off the flu, and I hope this advice helps you if you do manage to come down with influenza.
Our M.U.S.T. resident physician, Dr. Vincent Pedre, is a Board-Certified Internist in private practice in New York City since 2004. His mission as a physician and a health and wellness specialist is to fuse his stellar training in Western medicine with a holistic and integrative view of healing. To learn more you can visit www.pedremd.com or follow his blog at http://pedremd.wordpress.com
 Simonsen L, Reichert TA, Viboud C, et al. Impact of influenza vaccination on seasonal mortality in the US elderly population. Arch Intern Med 2005;165:265-272.
 Osterholm, M, PhD, et al. Efficacy and Effectiveness of Influenza Vaccines: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. The Lancet Infectious Disease, Early Online Publication, 26 October 2011; doi: 10.1016/S1473-3099(11)70295-X
 Zakay-Rones et al. Inhibition of several strains of influenza virus in vitro and reduction of symptoms by an elderberry extract (Sambucus nigra L.) during an outbreak of influenza B Panama. J Altern Complement Med. 1995 Winter;1(4):361-9.
 Zakay-Rones et al. Randomized study of the efficacy and safety of oral elderberry extract in the treatment of influenza A and B virus infections. J Int Med Res. 2004 Mar-Apr;32(2):132-40.
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