By NADENE ALBRECHT
There seems to be a season for everything, believe it or not. Want to place a bet as to what season we are going through now? Achoo? God bless you? And, heard frequently in this area, "Gesundheit." Yep, it is no less then the good ol' flu season, with sneezing and coughing high on the agenda for attention getters.
Facebook and Twitter headlines of people being home, sick, unable to go to work, attend special events, missing school, even being unable to take care of other family members overshadow most other items on the news at this particular time. The flu involves everyone; no one is immune.
Although my mother, due to family circumstances, was unable to complete a nursing education, she taught us a lot of things to do on our own, and a lot of the things I have not forgotten. I still do them today. Above and beyond all, the medicinal input she passed down to her family was the part of caring for others in all ways. First and foremost, if we were sick, we stayed home. School time and winter always demanded the most of her time when it came for caring for her family. We stayed in our room, and she brought us homemade chicken soup with floating noodles or tiny dumplings. We could read, but above all, we were to stay in and rest so we could get better.
At night, she would heat up a cup of milk, add cocoa and sugar, stir until it was mixed, top with a couple of marshmallows -- and then came all that tender loving care as only a mom or dad can offer to a child. We would get the rub down for the night. Out came the Vick's bottle, and she rubbed our chests and the bottom of our feet with that good ole stuff, not forgetting to rub a little under our nose and above our eyebrows with instructions to keep our hands away from our eyes. And out of the cedar chest came Grandma's (affectionately called though she had passed away when my father was in grade school, and we had never had the privilege of knowing a grandparent) ol' gray shawl, lovingly heated atop the heating stove and wrapped around our necks. Tucked under the featherbeds (unheated bedrooms at that time), maybe a brick, also heated, wrapped in a large bath towel at our feet, and we knew each touch from our mother's hands was a touch of love. In spite of aching, coughing, sneezing, and plain ol' feeling lousy, we had to admit, we felt pretty good. We were loved.
Doing a little research, I was surprised to learn the flu is one of the nations most lethal diseases, killing up to 20,000 Americans a year, usually in the winter months. Is it the cold weather? Do we forget to wear our coats or mittens or headgear to protect our bodies from the cold weather? Is our resistance at an all-time low during that time? But wait, the flu always spreads in the winter in temperate regions like North America and Europe. Isn't that correct? But try and reason why the flu becomes common in tropical regions during the hot, rainy season.
Surprisingly, scientists are now telling us humidity is the main factor -- when the relative humidity is either below 50 percent or above 98 percent, the influenza virus thrives. We all know that during the winter, our heated buildings provide a perfect environment for the flu to spread as the humidity is usually below 50 percent, allowing the virus to separate from airborne human mucus and float happily around until it finds a human host.
Dr. Lindsey Marr told the Wall Street Journal: "In a really heated building, the virus is happy if the mucus droplet completely evaporates and leaves it floating around."
The flu virus does not survive well in a humidity between 50 percent and 98 percent. That opens the door to buying a humidifier and using it during the months the furnace is heating your homes, keeping the humidity above 50 percent but no higher than 60 percent (which could lead to mold).
Interesting articles regarding the effectiveness of the flu shot, though I get mine faithfully each year, seems to be an individual preference and that of your medical adviser. Some say it is better to be safe than sorry; others disagree. Again, aren't we glad we live in the good ol' USA where we still can make our own intelligent choices? But right up there with the effectiveness of the shot is fighting the flu with food. Good nutrition and immunity go hand in hand. Isn't that why that good ol' chicken soup is always on the menu when flu or colds strike? Not only is it so, so soothing as it slips down that itchy, scratchy throat, but it also contains a compound called carnosine, which boosts the body's immune system, especially during the early stages of illness.
But think about what comes in the chicken soup. Yes, noodles and dumplings, but also the synergy of the ingredients you add, such as carrots, onions, mushrooms, broccoli, celery, tomatoes, cauliflower. The list is endless. All have immune-boosting powers. In addition to chicken soup, sweet potatoes are said to be effective in supporting the mucus membranes that line the respiratory and intestinal tract. If the mucus membranes are functioning properly, it makes it harder for germs to enter the bloodstream and start infection. Cauliflower is rich in antioxidants and contains choline, which covers a multitude of sins, while mushrooms are said to be loaded with zinc, which offers a laundry list of benefits. Volumes could be written about what to do and what not to do when it comes to treating the flu. If it works, use it, try it, and let it work for you.
Feeling a sneeze coming on? Grab a Kleenex, use that elbow to cover your mouth, excuse yourself and leave the room if others are coughing and sneezing. Do the same at work. Go home -- don't make the rest of your co-workers sick. And, of course, wash hands and maintain other sanitary practices even more than normal.
Hopefully, with a little good nutrition, a good humidifier, some good ol' soap and water, loving and caring friends and family, we can all come through the flu season unscathed and unharmed.
Nadene Albrecht, Russell, is a retired real estate agent.