Daisy Luther, Contributor
This year’s flu promises to be one of the worst on record. The CDC estimates that over 200,000 flu victims will be hospitalized. The aggressive strain of H3N2v was not included in this year’s vaccine, so even if you got jabbed (and believe that the flu shot is effective) you’d still be at risk for this nasty virus. According to the CDC, H3N2v is mutation of the swine flu.
Many people are lining up in the germ-infested pharmacy to purchase over-the-counter and prescription flu remedies. These medications may not be the best option – in fact, many of them are downright harmful.
The newest darling of the pharmaceutical industry is Tamiflu. Tamiflu is advertised as something to shorten the term and severity of the illness. ”Tamiflu is an FDA-approved prescription flu medicine that attacks the flu at its source. Tamiflu doesn’t just treat the symptoms of flu that make you feel bad. Tamiflu fights the flu virus itself.” According to their website:
The most common side effects of Tamiflu are mild to moderate nausea and vomiting.
People with the flu, particularly children and adolescents, may be at increased risk for seizures, confusion, or abnormal behavior when they first get sick. These events may occur when the flu is not treated or right after starting Tamiflu. These events are uncommon but may lead to accidental injury. Contact a healthcare professional right away if you notice any unusual behavior.
This links to a PDF of prescribing information for doctors, which tells a slightly more alarming story:
WARNINGS AND PRECAUTIONS ———————–
Serious skin/hypersensitivity reactions such as Stevens-Johnson
Syndrome, toxic epidermal necrolysis and erythema multiforme:
Discontinue TAMIFLU and initiate appropriate treatment if allergic-like
reactions occur or are suspected. (5.1)
Neuropsychiatric events: Patients with influenza, including those receiving
TAMIFLU, particularly pediatric patients, may be at an increased risk of
confusion or abnormal behavior early in their illness. Monitor for signs of
abnormal behavior. (5.2)
Leading natural health website Mercola.com claims that the research on Tamiflu is flawed. According to an article by Dr. Mercola, the limited benefits do not outweigh the risks, particularly for children:
Back in 2008, the FDA started reviewing reports of abnormal behavior and disturbing brain effects in more than 1,800 children who had taken Tamiflu. The symptoms included convulsions, delirium and delusions. In Japan, five deaths were reported in children under 16 as a result of such neurological or psychiatric problems. Seven adult deaths have also been attributed to Tamiflu, due to its neuropsychiatric effect.
According to a 2009 study, more than half of children taking Tamiflu experience side effects such as nausea and nightmares. Other more rare and bizarre side effects have also been reported, such as the case of a 19-year old British girl who developed toxic epidermal necrolysis and blindness after taking Tamiflu last year.
So, for an estimated 1.3 days less of sick-time, you run the risk of neuropsychiatric side effects, delusions, convulsions, nausea, vomiting and life-threatening skin allergies. Plus, it costs $115-$200 for a course of the drug.
OTC Cold Medicine
Since the symptoms of the flu are similar to those of a cold (runny nose, congestion, fever) many people are turning to over-the-counter cold remedies to treat those symptoms. Sometimes the side effects can be worse than the symptoms you’re trying to treat.
Antihistamines are supposed to stop the watering eyes, runny noses and scratchy throats but result in severe drowsiness for most people. Other common side effects are dizziness, headaches, dry mouth, dry eyes, and fatigue.
Decongestants (like pseudoephedrine or phenylephrine) allege to reduce sinus congestion, but can also dangerously increase heart rates and blood pressure in some people. Other side effects are Restlessness, insomnia, tremors, and anxiety.
Phenylpropanolamine (PPA), another common ingredient in cold and flu medicines, can increase the risk of hemorrhagic stroke, especially in women ages 19-45.
For people who take monoamine oxidase inhibitors or SSRI antidepressants, the above medication types can cause lethal interactions.
OTC Cough Medicine
Dextromethorphan, the most common active ingredient in over-the-counter cough medicine, can be deadly if the recommended dosage is exceeded. As well, it is one of the most abused OTCs for those seeking a quick “high”. Common side effects of dextramethorphan are drowsiness, nausea, confusion, and dizziness. Expectorants and suppressants can cause either constipation or diarhea.
Medicated Nasal Sprays
Over the counter medicated nasal sprays work quickly to open the nasal passages, but if they are used for more than 3-5 days in a row, they can result in more congestion than you had in the first place due to the “rebound effect” or rhinitis medicamentosa. When this occurs, the swelling of the nasal passages can become permanent, requiring surgical intervention.
The Solutions Are As Close as Your Kitchen
So, what’s a sniffling, coughing, congested flu-sufferer to do? Forget heading to the petri dish that is your local pharmacy – go to the kitchen – there are lots of things you already have that help reduce the misery to a tolerable level without the risk of nasty side effects!
Note: I’m not a doctor, nor do I play one on TV. These home remedies are for informational purposes only and are not a substitute for medical attention from a professional.
Specifically, you want to stock up on raw honey, rather than pasteurized. When honey is heated during the pasteurization process many of its health benefits are either lost or diminished. If you don’t have raw honey, use what you have, but when shopping, look specifically for unheated honey.
Honey is antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral. This means that before you know the source of an illness (virus, fungus or bacteria) you can still begin to treat the problem.
Sprinkle honey with powdered cinnamon and take a teaspoon 3 times per day as soon as you start to feel a little tickle in your throat. This can often prevent the illness from taking hold.
Instead of reaching for the cough syrup, try a teaspoon of honey before bedtime to soothe your cough. Honey taken this way is also very soothing to sore, inflamed throats.