Do you have time for the flu?

Blowing NoseFlu season is upon us! Check out these flu facts to help keep you and your loved ones well this flu season. If you suspect that you are ill with flu, please call for an appointment at Downtown Doctor, a family medicine clinic in the heart of downtown Austin!

  • The influenza “flu” virus is seasonal. The typical flu season runs from October to May, usually peaking between December and February.
  • Symptoms of the flu may include:
    • Fever, Chills, Body aches, Cough, Runny Nose, Headache, Fatigue, Sore throat  
  • What can I do to help prevent the flu?
    • Flu Vaccine!
    • Wash your hands or use hand sanitizer
    • Cover your cough/sneeze
    • Regularly sanitize countertops, door knobs, and other frequently contacted locations in your home
  • What flu vaccine is available at Austin family practice clinic Downtown Doctor?
    • Quadrivalent (protects for 2 Flu A & 2 Flu B viruses), preservative free
    • High Dose (recommended for age 65+ and those with chronic illness)
    • These are NOT a live vaccines and can NOT make you sick!
  • What to do if you suspect you may have the Flu?
    • Schedule an appointment at Austin family practice clinic Downtown Doctor to be seen for your symptoms, there is a rapid influenza test that can confirm the presence of the influenza virus.
    • Flu virus is treated with symptomatic treatment, fluids, and rest.
    • There are antiviral medications (ex: Tamiflu) available that can help your body fight off the virus but should be started within the first 48 hours of symptoms.
    • Since flu is a virus, antibiotics are NOT helpful

Are you getting enough Vitamin D?

Are you getting enough vitamin D? The answer is most likely no.  Though studies are still underway to determine optimal blood levels, recommended daily amounts, and the full role it plays in the human body; there is growing data from studies of youth, young adults, and elderly persons that vitamin D is an unrecognized and prevalent health problem. It has been reported that vitamin D deficiency rates are 36% in otherwise healthy young adults and up to 57% in general medicine inpatients in the United States. Rates of inadequate vitamin D are even higher among dark-skinned individuals, those who are overweight or have low HDL (good) cholesterol, and during the winter.

Vitamin D is manufactured by the skin in the presence of sun exposure. Though no one is exactly sure why vitamin D deficiency has become so prevalent, many postulate that it is due to our vigilant use of sunscreen and spending too much time indoors. High rates of obesity likely contribute as well.

Current research indicates that the consequences of vitamin D deficiency go far beyond inadequate bone development and excessive bone loss that can result in fractures. Every tissue in the body, including the brain, heart, muscles and immune system, have receptors for vitamin D, indicating that the nutrient is needed for these tissues to function well.

Studies have found associations between low levels of vitamin D and increased incidence of cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, autoimmune disorders such as multiple sclerosis and type I diabetes, the common cold and flu, some types of cancers, and low levels of testosterone.

What are the symptoms of vitamin D deficiency?

General muscle pain and weakness
Muscle cramps
Joint pain
Chronic pain
Weight gain
High blood pressure
Restless sleep
Poor concentration
Bladder problems
Constipation or diarrhea

Since vitamin D is synthesized by the skin via exposure to sunlight, a brief period of sun exposure (approximately 5-30 minutes depending on skin tone between 10am and 3pm) at least twice weekly is helpful in increasing blood levels. Further, oral supplementation is also prudent. Although the recommended daily allowance for vitamin D is 200-400 international units per day, this doseage may not be effective depending on your individual blood level. At Downtown Doctor, we recommend having your vitamin D level checked to ensure proper supplementation in order to optimize your health and energy levels.

Cold and Flu Prevention

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the flu season has hit early this year.  What’s more, the strain of flu that’s most prevalent thus far–H3N2–has been associated with more severe flu seasons and is apt to strike the very young and very old.  Five states, including Texas, already have widespread reports of flu outbreaks. Fortunately, this year’s flu vaccine closely matches the circulating strains, and Downtown Doctor has preservative free vaccine available on a walk-in, or appointment basis if preferred.  Beyond getting vaccinated, additional steps to stay healthy during the cold and flu season are outlined below.

1) Hand hygiene.  Wash hands thoroughly and frequently using warm water and soap.
For best results, scrub vigorously between your fingers, beneath fingernails and your wrists. Wash your hands:

  • Before eating
  • After using the restroom
  • After physical contact with a sick person or items they used
  • After coughing, sneezing, or blowing your nose

Tip: To truly get rid of germs, scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds, or about the time it takes you to sing the Happy Birthday song twice.

2) Don’t touch your face.  Cold and flu viruses enter your body through the eyes, nose, or mouth. Touching their faces is the major way children catch colds and a key way they pass colds on to their parents.

3) Exercise.  Aerobic exercise speeds up the heart to pump larger quantities of blood; makes you breathe faster to help transfer oxygen from your lungs to your blood; and makes you sweat once your body heats up. These exercises help increase the body’s natural virus-killing cells.

4) Supplement with Vitamin D.  Various studies have suggested that vitamin D plays a protective role in the immune system.  One study by the Department of Medicine at Yale University School of Medicine found that those who had blood levels lower than 38 ng/ml (nanograms per milliliter) had twice as many upper respiratory tract infections when compared to those whose blood levels were lower than 38 ng/ml.  Because the body makes vitamin D when in the sun, lower levels tend to occur in the winter, otherwise known as cold season.  James Cannell, MD and president of the Vitamin D Council recommends supplementing with 5,000 IU/day.

5) Don’t smoke.  Statistics show that heavy smokers get more severe colds and more frequent ones.  Even being around smoke profoundly zaps the immune system. Smoke dries out your nasal passages and paralyzes cilia. These are the delicate hairs that line the mucous membranes in your nose and lungs, and with their wavy movements, sweep cold and flu viruses out of the nasal passages. Experts contend that one cigarette can paralyze cilia for as long as 30 to 40 minutes.

6) Eat fermented foods or supplement with a probiotic.  Probiotics found in fermented foods like yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut and kimchi strengthen and maintain the mucosal barrier system (in our respiratory and intestinal tract), which is our first line of defense against pathogens. What’s more, 75% of our immune system if found in the gut.

7) Vitamin C and immune boosting botanicals.  Vitamin C is useful for fighting off colds. Take 1g every 3-4 hours.  In addition, there are a number of botanicals that have a potent immune-boosting effect. These include echinacea, astragalus, codonopsis, Siberian ginseng, catnip, ginger root, garlic and Elder flower (Sambucus).

8) Drink plenty of water.  at least one 8-oz glass of water for every 20 pounds body weight. Water is important for healthy digestion and elimination. All of our cells are constantly bathed in water. When they become dehydrated they can’t function properly.

9) Get plenty of rest.  Aim for 8-9 hours sleep per night and rest if you feel tired. Sleep is recovery time for the body’s functions, including the immune system. Sleep in a completely dark room, and avoid eating a large meal directly before bedtime.