Seasons are shifting, school has started and germs are making their way around! The Centers For Disease Control (CDC) estimates 10-15 million viral respiratory infections affect Americans each year, with the season peaking in September and October.
This year, a normally quiet virus strain—Enterovirus D68 (aka EV-D68)—has made headlines because it has caused the hospitalization of hundreds of children across the US. EV-D68 started appearing in force in the Midwest, but has now spread to Utah, Colorado and the northeastern states. In fact, more than 900 children in Denver, Colo. have visited the emergency room since August 18with a respiratory illness.
There are many different strains of enteroviruses and generally they cause intense common cold symptoms. Though this particular strain, EV-D68, was first reported in the 1962, it has not seen an outbreak of this proportion until now. Top health officials at the CDC say this could be just the tip of the iceberg as far as the number of infections and hospital visits we will see this season.
Other viruses such as Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV)—common in the fall and winter months—can also infect young children and adults with low immunity, causing symptoms that last for 1-2 weeks and potentially pneumonia.
Who is at risk and what are symptoms of respiratory virus and EV-D68?
Anyone can be infected with a respiratory virus, but infants, children and teens are more susceptible because they haven’t built up immunity to the viruses. Children with asthma or prior respiratory problems are particularly vulnerable to EV-D68, which can cause severe symptoms or intensified breathing difficulties. Adults and the elderly with compromised immune systems are also at greater risk.
Symptoms of respiratory virus infection include runny nose, sneezing, coughing and lethargy. Symptoms of EV-D68 start the same as other respiratory viruses, but the cough can become especially severe, including difficulty breathing or wheezing. It is sometimes also accompanied by fever and rash (note: experts recommend seeing a doctor immediately if you are experiencing this combination of symptoms).
Prevention for respiratory viruses
There is no specific conventional treatment for EV-D68 and there is currently no vaccination for it. Conventional medicine suggests getting plenty of rest and fluids and use of over-the-counter cold medicines.
Practitioners of natural medicine, however, encourage patients to focus on building the immune system before sickness can take hold. The higher functioning your immune system is, the better chances you have of preventing contraction of EV-D68 and other germs going around this season. Beat the bug, don’t let the bug beat you!
Follow these fundamentals to improve your chances at staying healthy:
1) Wash your hands often with soap and hot water for at least 20 seconds, especially after using the washroom or changing a diaper. Use hand sanitizer throughout the day for added protection.
2) Avoid or limit your exposure to people showing symptoms of illness (including kissing, hugging, shaking hands and sharing food or utensils).
3) Avoid or limit touching your face, mouth and eyes.
4) Clean and disinfect surfaces often (e.g. countertops, toys, doorknobs, shared telephones).
5) Get plenty of rest and decrease stress where possible, since stress can negatively affect your immunity.
6) Eat a healthy, whole-foods diet balanced with bright-colored fruits and vegetables, complex carbohydrates, healthy fats and adequate protein (avoid saturated fat, simple sugars and alcohol).
7) Drink plenty of healthy fluids (e.g. water, herbal tea, electrolytes).
8) Do your part and take care of yourself; stay home if you're not feeling well!
Additionally, some of the products below can go a long way toward building your immune system.
A high-potency multivitamin helps ensure adequate daily nutrition, especially for those that tend to stray from a whole-foods diet. Try New Chapter's One Daily for Adults and Rainbow Light's Kids One MultiStars for children.
Vitamin D shows a broad range of immune-enhancing effects. Try Pharmaca brand for adults or kids.
Herbal blends such as WishGarden's Daily Immune or Kick-Ass Immune for Adults or kids or Kick-it Immune for kids, which combine effective immune building and virus-resisting herbs.
Elderberry is an antiviral that builds immunity, supports upper respiratory health and tastes good, too! Try Gaia Herbs' Black Elderberry Syrup for adults or kids.
Vitamin C plays an important role in immune enhancement and is antiviral and antibacterial. Try vitamin C with bioflavonoids to help increase the beneficial effects of vitamin C. Try American Health's Ester C for adults or Bluebonnet's Super Earth Animalz Vitamin C for kids.
Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that inhabit the gut, improving immunity and crowding out harmful bacteria. Try Udo’s Super 8 Hi-Potency Probiotic for adults or Pharmax's HLC Child for kids.
Keep clean hands with Pharmaca's Organic Defense Hand Cleansing Spritz, which fights germs naturally without drying out your hands.