As flu season returns, so do our concerns about colds and flu. How long does the flu last? Is there anything we can do to prevent it? Each year strains of the flu virus A and B infect thousands of people, attacking the respiratory tract and causing fevers, sore throat, and fatigue. Spread through respiratory secretions, the flu travels rampant during the winter months as the cold, damp weather and increased crowds create the perfect conditions for exposure.

New strains of flu evolve annually, so getting it one year won’t prevent you from getting it again the next. Though it typically only last one to two weeks, in some cases, the flu can progress into more serious illnesses, including pneumonia. Since it’s very contagious, once it enters your home, it’s extremely difficult to keep it from spreading to all of your family and friends.

Flu Prevention

During flu season, it’s extremely important to take care of your body. Start with the basics: getting ample rest, reducing stress and eating a healthy diet. When we get enough sleep, our body is prepared to fight potential infections, but chronic lack of sleep can leave the body weakened and vulnerable. Although some stress is unavoidable, try to reduce unnecessary stress when possible- this also weakens the body and increases vulnerability. As you eat healthy foods, be sure to include red, yellow, and dark green vegetables, as these are especially helpful. Regular exercise can also strengthen your immune system.

At home, disinfect shared surface such as handles, doorknobs, and remote controls, because the flu virus can live on surfaces for up to 24 hours! Wash your hands frequently, and avoid touching your mouth, eyes, and nose. When possible, avoid crowds. If you must be around many other people, be sure to wash your hands thoroughly before touching your face and eating food. And if a family member is sick, avoid sharing utensils or linens and encourage them to cough and sneeze into their arms.

Supplements for Colds and Flu

In addition to eating healthy foods, there are supplements available for flu prevention. For example, vitamins such as vitamin A, vitamin C, Vitamin D and  zinc can increase T-cell production, strengthen mucous membranes, and enhance the natural immune system overall. Herbal supplements such as echinacea or larch arabinogalactans contain polysaccharides that stimulate the immune system to fight infections. Many people have had great success in warding off the flu by taking elderberry syrup, which not only contains vitamin A and vitamin C, but also has other antioxidant properties.

How long does the flu last? Hopefully, it won’t even reach your home this year. For more ideas, visit or contact the Sacramento Naturopathic Medical Center. They can prescribe specific, professional grade supplements for flu prevention and give you advice on the best way to avoid colds and flu this winter.

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