Influenza, SARS and corona virus are quite different from the common cold. And they’re much more debilitating. However, they both often start in the same way, as your symptoms demonstrate how your body is mounting its defence.
Most of this page was written in February 2020. Where advice here differs from law enacted in YOUR country, please obey your laws!
Like the common cold, they are spread as a virus, so antibiotics have no effect on them.
However, antibiotics have often been used in the past to prevent or ameliorate some of the unpleasant diseases your body may meet after being weakened by ‘flu. For example, if you are weakened by ‘flu, you are more susceptible to pneumonia, which CAN be treated with antibiotics.
Influenza is very contagious. You can catch it through the air, when someone contagious sneezes.
Common Influenza, SARS and Corona Virus Symptoms
muscle pain and heaviness
fatigue: extreme – you may be unable to stand, get dressed, open a tin
loss of appetite – nausea perhaps
pain when moving the eyes
sometimes – dizziness
For influenza, about 2 days. For corona-virus, up to 14 days, apparently. During those incubation days, others can catch it from you. This means you can unknowingly spread it fast. That means it spreads quickly. The advice is to stay home and avoid other people.
Analysis in Chinese medicine
In case you haven’t realised it yet, this site aims to explain in English how Chinese medicine works. You might wonder what Chinese medicine has to offer, when Western medicine has been investigating this virus and what to do about it for many years.
Well, just remember that Chinese medicine has been going for 3000 years at least. It has used very different ways to understand and explain illness, and what to do about it.
Scientists are increasingly discovering that Chinese medical forms of treatment are often just as effective as Western medicine, and sometimes more effective. The WHO approves of acupuncture for many forms of disease.
AND, from Chinese medicine and acupuncture you don’t usually get the side effects you experience when taking modern (Western) drugs – medications.
In nearly every case of influenza, the basic diagnosis is Damp-Heat.
(Bit of technical stuff: this is classified as being Damp-Heat at the Defensive (wei) level in Chinese medicine. The Defensive (wei) level is the outermost of the Four Levels, which show how hot-type pathogens invade the body, and the damage they do and the way your body resists as diseases penetrate deeper through your defences.)
Everyone is different, of course, so the actual diagnosis has other syndromes which fill out your particular symptom picture.
What Damp-Heat means
Now before reading on, think about that classification: “Damp-Heat”. It’s a way of saying that bugs like influenza, corona virus, SARS and the like, prefer a warm damp environment. If you want to avoid the illness, don’t provide it with warm damp conditions. And be extra vigilant in warm damp environments.
Think about it. Where do we get warm, damp conditions?
crowded buses and trains
car interiors when the heating is turned on
food and drinks
used handkerchiefs or paper tissues
mouths and kisses
All these (places) are either warm and/or moist. The ‘air’ in them is something like fog. Warm, moist air is, for bugs, just heaven.
Think also about how you exchange things.
Anything physical you give or receive or share may be covered in the virus. For instance –
cash (this disease may be another nudge towards a cashless society)
cheques (yes, some of my patients still use them!)
ATM terminal keypads
shared computer keyboards
keys that you keep in warm pockets
purses, wallets etc, also kept in warm pockets
communion wine cups: the Church of Scotland already often uses individual thimblets for communion wine. It may be that we should move towards bringing our own mugs when receiving communion!
Now, thinking about eradicating the bug, what to do?
If your town has fog, how do you get rid of it?
With some difficulty! The best way is to wait for the
wind to rise, to blow it away, or for the
sun to rise, to burn it away
Likewise, fresh air helps to clear indoors air that may be stale and contagious: regularly open windows at front and back to let fresh air blow through.
Sunlight is death to bugs. Regularly hang out in the sun your bedclothes, cleaning rags, washed towels etc
What to do
I’m assuming you don’t want to catch the bug! If it’s the corona-virus, it seems that about 2% of people who catch it go on to die. That’s 2 in 100. If you know 100 people, if they all caught it 2 will die. That’s not a high percentage as these things go, but it’s high enough for those two people and their families.
How to avoid it?
Putting aside government measures to restrain the spread, what you can do has three aspects.
What ideally we’d all like to happen – effective immunisation
How to avoid it in the first place. This is what you may be able to do, and if so should do to stop you being exposed to the bug.
How to cope if, unfortunately, you succumb to infection. This includes what to expect and what to do next.
Avoiding Influenza – Vaccination
You may be tempted to get vaccinated against flu. Most governments spend a great deal of effort persuading you of the benefits of the jab.
Although doctors insist that the latest ‘flu vaccines will protect you, there are disadvantages to having the jab, too. And of, course, if the ‘flu turns out to be different to the virus against which you’ve been vaccinated, it won’t work much if at all.
What is more, according to recent reviews in the Cochrane Database of Systematic reports, there is very little evidence that the vaccination makes much difference, for instance for the elderly or for the healthcare workers who care for them. Similar reports cast doubt on the beneficial effects of influenza vaccination in children under 2.
I don’t know how good the reports by doctors are of the ill-effects of vaccination, but I have seen many patients who developed various complaints in the weeks immediately following immunisation.
The 2017 UK flu vaccine was almost certainly ineffective against the main flu affecting us in winter 2017/18. For more on this, see the links further down this page.
A vaccination against corona virus is being prepared but will not have been through trials, let alone made available, until perhaps July 2020, from reports I’ve seen.
If so, face it, you can’t get immunised against this disease.
That means you must take measures to avoid it. Failing that, you must take measures to survive it.
Avoiding Influenza – Hygiene
As a virus, influenza, SARS and corona virus spread by entering your body and multiplying there. They enter via your:
cuts in your skin
So the first thing to do is to stop yourself touching anything possibly contagious. That means wearing gloves. Thin cotton ones are good. They can be worn inside thicker gloves against the cold. Every evening wash your gloves thoroughly and let them dry overnight. Bugs love dampness, so make sure they’re dry when you put them on the next day.
Take several pairs of clean gloves with you when you go out, because if one of them gets damp (remember, bugs love dampness and your hands will make them warm), you can use another pair.
By washing them thoroughly, I mean lots of hot soapy water, then rinsed clean with warm water, lots of it!
I hear you ask why you should use hot water when we are dealing with a disease that likes warmth and damp. It’s because it’s one thing to warm things up, quite another to boil it. Boiling does tend to kill. So don’t rely on claims that a disinfectant will kill all known germs. Do it the old-fashioned way and use very hot, preferably boiling water.
And use soapy water because most bugs don’t last long in hot soapy water.
Dry the gloves either in a good air-drier (expensive on electricity) or hang them out to dry in a warm room overnight.
If you’ve been on public transport or in offices or places where many people pass, your hands or clothes will have been in touch with hand-rails and door-handles etc which others have touched.
Their touch, if less hygienic than yours, may have spread influenza or cold viruses liberally over the areas touched.
Read about how long viruses can survive outside the body here.
So wearing gloves can protect you?
However, when removing gloves, don’t touch the outside of the old gloves with your (now) bare hands because if so, you defeat the whole object of the exercise! That’s because the outside of the discarded gloves are probably covered in others’ snot and the viruses they contain. If you touch your face with your bare hands you are transferring the bugs right up close to your nose and mouth!
So before you even start all this, just watch yourself. How often does a hand stray towards your face, cheeks, mouth, nose, eye, or ear? And having scratched your ear, how quickly did the hand stray towards your nose or mouth?!
By the way, have you made a Will and, in the UK, what about a deed of attorney?
Increasingly, governments want you to wear masks. However, they vary in quality and effectiveness and they’re a pest to wear for some people and in some professions.
The following are my thoughts.
Not really much use – except for one purpose, mentioned below! If you are contagious and sneeze while wearing a mask it may delay the movement of virus-containing droplets from you out into the environment. But it won’t much delay contagious air from someone else into your lungs. Besides, after a few hours, your mask will get warm and damp from the moisture in your breath, making it ideal fertile ground for the virus.
So by all means buy a mask, but do realise that it’s not going to protect YOU. It might, however, protect others from YOUR sneezes.
What to do in crowded trains and buses
Don’t stand or sit too close to others. (Easier said than done!) But if someone is coughing or sneezing, ask them to face away from you! Stand well clear of them. At least a metre. That increases the time viruses must stay airborne before reaching you.
If the windows in the bus are open, the air draft may waft the bugs out of the window before reaching you. So, make it a habit to open windows, and not just at home! (You feel cold? Wear more!)
A suggestion! Walk or cycle to work if you can, or for part of the journey. The exercise may improve your health a bit, making you more resilient against the virus if, unfortunately, you catch it.
One possible good reason for wearing a mask
However, there is one possible good reason for wearing a mask. This is that it may stop or delay you from putting your contagion-covered fingers in your mouth or up your nose. Its presence may make you more cautious. Those germs you acquired from other people.
They are now YOUR germs! Don’t put YOUR germs in YOUR mouth!
Makeup and Mascara
Women! Do you wear mascara on your eyelashes, or put makeup on your face?
Think carefully! Every time you touch your face or eyes with unwashed fingers – either when applying or removing makeup – you could be moving the virus closer to your nose, eyes or mouth.
Everyone in the house gets their own towel. Nobody touches anyone else’s towel. All towels are washed in HOT water at least twice a week.
Kitchen Towels and Cloths
Ideally let kitchen utensils and dishes drip-dry. Otherwise, wash all towels and cloths in very hot soapy water, several times a week. Let them dry out overnight on rails near warm ovens. Don’t pile drying cloths one on another overnight. Never leaves cleaning rags in dirty water overnight. Always squeeze them as dry as possible and hang them somewhere to dry.
Or, sadly – because of environmental considerations – I suggest you use paper towels as much as possible – and paper tissues for your nose. Discard them into plastic bags before tying them up then trashing them. (Your local health and safety or environmental health department may have other ideas, of course.)
Beds are warm and damp. If you share a bed with someone infected, you will probably catch the bug. Someone needs to be able to care for the person most affected. So it is better not to share beds. Eventually, you hope, someone will recover and be able to care for the others. The person who’s up will still be very tired and convalescent so if you’re now the ill one, be grateful to them. But before you catch each other’s bugs, a separate bed may be best.
If you have a baby in the house? Well, all that drooling and shared mouthfuls makes it fairly certain you’ll all go down with the bug. If baby was breast-fed by a healthy mum, the chances are baby will survive, having quickly achieved 40C. It may take Mum longer and she’ll need support from others. That’s probably Dad or grandparents.
If the bug starts by sharing the air, we’ll survive it by sharing the care!
Resist the temptation to scratch or wipe your eyes when you’ve been out in public areas. That includes buses, trains, restaurants, shops, elevators, cinemas, theatres, lavatories …
Be cautious about shaking hands with people. If you do, wash your hands properly before you then touch your mouth or eyes or nose.
One suggestion I saw was to ‘bump’ elbows instead. Wearing gloves to shake hands should be all right. But not if you take a glove off with one hand and scratch your eye with that hand, if just before you shook someone’s hand with that glove. Everything you touch may be contagious. Don’t touch anything without wearing gloves!
You may wish to carry a separate plastic bag for gloves you have discarded and intend to wash in the evening.
What about food?
First, take care to wash your hands (warm, soapy water, rubbed into a lather than washed off under clean, running water before being dried with a clean cloth or tissue) before putting them anywhere near your mouth, eyes or nose.
If you must pick your nose, do it through a clean handkerchief!
Wash your hands before eating. Take care to eat food that is properly prepared and cooked, and still hot enough to kill bugs dead. Also, eat from clean plates with clean cutlery.
Cover and protect cuts and abrasions with appropriate dressings.
Yes, yes, I know about vitamin C. And D. And E. Plus Zinc and Cod liver oil. And probably about a few other things that will pop up in time. Then, lately, Quercitin too. All recommended by various authorities for influenza.
The question of nutrition takes us into slightly different territory and it’s best to be clear about what you hope to achieve.
I doubt there is much you can eat that will actually stop you catching influenza. That’s even more the case if you’ve only just started to consider the matter.
There’s a lot you can do to help your body cope better if you do catch it. Especially if you start early.
It’s not that vitamins and minerals, proteins and carbohydrates are unimportant. If you are undernourished and lack the right nutrition to keep healthy, you’ll get sick more easily, and not just from influenza!
It’s just that you can do something which, on its own, may be just as effective in making you less susceptible to influenza. Or better at coping with it.
But you probably won’t like it. What is it?
Here we move from preparing to defend ourselves on the outside to marshalling our defences on the inside.
Stop taking Sugar!
Sugar and Sweeteners. Or rather the LACK of them in your diet will improve you immunity and ability to fight the disease.
It’s not just not eating sugar, but any kind of sweetener including honey, molasses, artificial sweeteners, stevia, maple syrup, golden syrup, corn syrup and any other kind of stuff that is sweet to taste. It also means avoiding anything which easily turns into sugar in your stomach.
white or refined bread or rolls. These take only a few minutes to be turned into sugar by your stomach
sodas, energy drinks containing sugar or sweeteners, (in the UK these would include Irn Bru, Ribena, Vimto, Tizer and various Cokes and Lucozade for example. In the USA these would include Colas, Cokes, Mountain Dew, Sprite, Fantas, Crush, Sunkist, Dr Pepper …!)
refined flours of any kind
jams, sweet flavourings, even peanut or other nut butter
many root vegetables like potato, parsnip, carrot
most kinds of fruit, especially very sweet ones like banana
dried fruit, even if organic and from the highest, purest Tibetan mountain pastures possible … or similar
Supposedly healthy foods, like yogurt, that are sweetened
(This one I hate to include but …) Alcohol turns to sugar in your blood pretty fast. Even faster if it’s sweetened or very sweet, like many fortified wines, sherry and many cocktails. Just get your head round the fact that alcohol is really a rather dirty form of sugar which, as you digest and metabolise it, can muck up your liver and eventually your life, if you let it.
Artificial sweeteners, which confuse your Spleen, in effect making it expect something that doesn’t arrive. Besides, artificial sweeteners have many critics – See also this link.
Sorry, but that’s not all….
Other Foods to Avoid during Influenza, Corona Virus and the like
During influenza, avoid food that is raw or eaten chilled or cold. Why? Because they need more energy to digest. This doesn’t matter if you are well and healthy. But when your immune force is lower, as it often is during winter months, it is better to eat food warm.
Stop taking milk and dairy products. Why? Because, whether you are sensitive to them or not, dairy products easily increase phlegm in your lungs and throat. Bugs LOVE phlegm!
Avoid strong caffeine drinks. It makes you feel great in the short term but it does so by using up your adrenal energy, so you’ll feel worse later. You don’t want to feel worse later – you want to feel better later! Again, this probably matters less if you are young, healthy and well. However, when your energy is lower, don’t over-stimulate it when you may be needing it to keep you going during something much worse, like ‘flu. Otherwise, it’s like whipping an exhausted horse to go faster: it will, but not for long!
Why all this stuff about avoiding sugar and so on? Because Chinese medicine considers that it weakens your Spleen energy. All this advice is to help you maintain a healthy Spleen energy so that, if you do catch flu SARS or coronavirus, your Spleen isn’t already weak. Why? Because what the Chinese call your Spleen in the West we might call your digestion and its ability to nourish all your body and to clear out the garbage.
If you have flu, you definitely need something that’s good with garbage!
YOUR SPLEEN also manages your gastro-intestinal tract.
That’s where 90% of our immune force lives. You’ll be wanting them if you’re catching ‘flu!
After all, they’re on your side. You can help them by taking pre-biotics (fruits, vegetables, onions and leeks and many grains), pro-biotics (probiotics grown in fermented food such as sauerkraut, tempeh and natural unsweetened yogurt) and avoiding sugars.
Why- again – avoid sugar before or during influenza? Because sugar is what the baddies in your gut feast upon. For example, if you want to get thrush, eat lots of sugar! After feasting on it they go out and copulate!
If you want more goodies and less baddies down there, eat sensibly, as explained.
I hear you complain! What’s left to eat?
You may complain – what is there left?
Well, most green vegetables are ok, (eaten cooked and hot, of course), limited quantities of protein in the form of lentils or nuts, meat and fish are ok.
But since influenza is generally of the damp-HEAT variety, you may benefit from avoiding foods that are too heating. There’s a list under our page ‘Hot-Foods‘ though it’s not guaranteed to cover every known food. If you habitually eat foods classified as ‘hot’, then they will have a heating effect on you and your digestion. So it will be somewhat more comfortable for a bug that likes damp-heat. Ask yourself: do you really want to make your body more receptive to the bug? If not, reduce the number of ‘hot-foods’ in your diet. And do it soon! The bug is coming and it’s not going to sit and wait while you change your eating habits. Especially if you’ve got nice fertile, nutritious place for it all ready!
Foods classified as hot include some kinds of meat, such as beef and lamb. Chicken is only mildly warm. But avoid spices which heat up the food you eat.
Some dishes to try …
Listed below are several dishes that aren’t too difficult to make and can be stored and re-heated. Many of them contain starches that you may have been told will make you fat. But if they’ve been allowed to cool before being re-heated, it turns out that they don’t make you fat after all. Furthermore, the starches they contain are ideal prebiotics.
All these foods are general tonics for you to eat both before, during and after you catch the bug. Mostly they are ‘yin tonics’ because as you recover from the bug, you will be tired, having used up your energy resources. If you’ve had a fever, then you’ll have used up some of your yin resources and may be yin deficient.
These dishes help to mend your yin deficiency. Make up a supply beforehand and freeze them.
Leek and potato soup (re-heated this is also a good prebiotic and, depending on how you made it, nutritious for someone convalescing from the bug)
Clogstoun congee: this is made from rice, and ideally you make it before you get ill as it provides energy in a very simple and easily absorbed form
Clogstoun porridgee which is a kind of porridge that, re-heated is both nourishing and a prebiotic
When you come to eat them, dilute them! Your weakened digestions may be able to cope only with very weak soups. If you have the strength, boil a little ginger root in the water you use to dilute them. The ginger will help the convalescent’s digestion work better. If he (she) can’t stand ginger, try fennel, though it’s not as good.
Here’s an important piece of advice: don’t over-eat.
Don’t stuff it down! Your body will be more adaptable and nimble in combating the invader if it isn’t trying to process an enormous meal. So eat smaller meals. And CHEW WELL to extract every ounce of goodness!
And don’t graze – ie don’t eat a little all the time. Give your digestion time to recover between meals. If you maintain a steady train of food progressing down your throat you could even end up with food-retention. You don’t want that either! That’s even worse for your Spleen! Food retention is a bit like constipation. (If I’m constipated, I think I’m going to DIE!) You definitely don’t want constipation at the same time as ‘flu.
And stay home, so you don’t spread it. Keep warm and drink water. And eat sparingly.
Bottom line? Best Advice?
Single best bit of advice, both there and here?
Don’t take analgesics or painkillers or anything that might bring your fever down artificially. Stop all forms of sugar.
Let your body fire up the furnaces and burn out the flu the way millions of years of evolution have shown works.
Of course, if you are already very weakened by age or infirmity, seek professional advice. This page is for supposedly healthy people!
Again, Don’t eat sugar!
Of course, if you are already very weakened by age or infirmity, seek professional advice. This page is for supposedly healthy people!
What about AFTER ‘flu?
Lots of people die after they’ve got over flu. Influenza is exhausting and often causes inflammation eg in your blood vessels so heart attacks and strokes become more likely. Older people are more susceptible, because they’ve had more time to acquire inflammations which come from life’s knocks and blows. But young people who live in the fast lane and use Western medicine to suppress health problems can succumb too. Read our page on Suppression. Also our page on Latent Heat.
Flu weakens not just your Spleen but your Lungs. That means a mild cough that came with flu may return or persist. That’s often when you get pneumonia or even TB, which are really insidious diseases because you can seem well, when really you’re not. Though I dislike antibiotics, this may be when you need them, as they can treat pneumonia (though not flu). However, antibiotic treatments against TB are dwindling in effect, unfortunately.
If there’s a lot of phlegm with the cough, read my book “Yuck! Phlegm!“. It was written for you and it doesn’t cost much. You can download it to your Kindle, too.
Drink Sage tea. Why? Well, as explained in my book it’s good for clearing mucus, for strengthening immunity, and for your lungs. Buy lots of it (dried leaves) and make them into a tisane, taken regularly. Does taking huge quantities of Safe tea guarantee immunity from corona-virus? I doubt it! But it may help you cope better.
After influenza or corona virus you need time to recover, so:
Rest more: go out less.
Eat sparingly, continuing to avoid sweet and cold foods