SWINE FLU: Precautions or Panic?

After a wonderful 2 week vacation in the Caribbean, reality hit upon disembarkation at Toronto’s Pearson Airport. The Customs and Immigration officials meeting us were wearing protective masks. Cleaning staff were wearing protective masks, gloves and cleaning all public areas with specialty cleaners. Why all the fuss? Then we were told “Swine Flu Precautions ” were being done. Having been cut off from the world news for the past 2 weeks, we had a lot of catching up to do!

According to the Health Canada website, Human Swine Flu is called H1N1 flu virus and has symptoms similar to those of the regular human seasonal flu. In pigs, it is a respiratory disease caused by the influenza A virus. Yes, air-borne transmission can occur between animals and humans, but it is not as common as we are led to believe. Transmission between humans will occur once the virus has mutated in one human, so it can then be spread along. No, there is no vaccine that will protect you from Swine Flu. Yes, most of the symptoms are the same to our seasonal human flu and those who are very young or old or with fragile health are at greater risk. Yes, there are anti-viral medications that can help treat this illness, namely Tamiflu (Oseltamivir) and Relenza (Zanamivir).

But like all other viruses, they need host cells in order to live and multiply. Exposure to the virus does not automatically mean you’ll get Swine Flu. So like other viruses we are subjected to, we can do things for ourselves to keep our chances of contracting this flu at low risk. A strong immune system, healthy respiratory system, proper skin health and a low stress level will go a long way to help stop infection from any type of respiratory virus. We go through this every year during flu season. So let’s recap what we can do for ourselves and our families.

SKIN: Knowing that the skin is our first line of defense against attack, keep the skin healthy and intact. Hand washing is the Number One activity for prevention of transmission of diseases . Use soap and water on your hands for 20-30 seconds, then completely rinse the soap off. Not sure how long 20-30 seconds is? Try singing the Happy Birthday song twice or Twinkle Twinkle Little Star once as you wash your hands and you’ll have a good idea about the timing. If you can’t get to a sink, then use a Hand-Sanitizer. It is a reasonable means of cleaning your hands, but it doesn’t replace good, old mechanical hand washing with soap and water. And because most commercial brands are alcohol-based, they can dry out your hands quickly, leaving your skin dry and cracked. These cracks invite germs to enter your body! Daily use of a good quality hand/body lotion will help keep the skin soft, smooth and free of cracks. Essential oils can be added to wash-up soaps and lotions to support the skin’s health.

MUCOUS MEMBRANE : This is the specialized skin which lines our mouth, throat, sinuses and lungs (and other places, too). It needs to be moist in order to stay healthy. Since Swine Flu virus is transmitted through the respiratory system, it makes sense to keep these membranes healthy and intact so nothing can get in. Good water intake, adequate moisture in the air, reduced dust and air-borne particles and daily use of essential oils will help keep the respiratory system strong. Personal essential oil inhalers and sprays can help support respiratory health.

CLEAN AIR : Keeping the air we breathe clean and fresh by using essential oils in diffusers, on tissues, in personal inhalers and sprays will help. Keeping dust, smoke and other air pollutants to a minimum will create less irritation on the respiratory system. Less irritation means less chance of drying out the mucous membranes. If you know of someone with a cold, flu or any other condition that is contagious, then limit your time around them. Yes, you might have to wear a face mask to be with them, depending upon their condition. A few drops of anti-viral essential oils in the mask will increase your protection. And wash your hands well after being with them!

STRONG IMMUNE SYSTEM : The immune system is our overall protective mechanism against illnesses. Many things contribute to keeping our immune system in top running order. Good nutrition, hydration, rest and play are essential. Some vitamin, mineral and herbal supplements are specifically formulated to support the immune system. Keeping stress levels low will prevent overtaxing the immune system. Meditation, massage, energy work, gentle exercise, laughing, doing things you love, being with people you love and having a social support system have all been shown to help keep stress levels down. This, in turn, helps keep your immunity against diseases high.

We can’t say for certain how this Swine Flu virus situation will unfold. But we can be proactive and come from a place of practical actions instead of a place of fear. Let’s do what we can for our family, friends and ourselves to stay happy, healthy and optimistic. We need not feel victimized by this virus.

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