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In addition to the flu shot and waiting for the COVID-19 vaccine, you might wonder what other supplements you can take to improve your immune system should you get the flu.  

First and foremost, WASH YOUR HANDS FREQUENTLY.   

  • Saline nasal sprays clean out crust from your nose that might encourage bacteria to grow.  They moisten and clean the passageways.  They can be used routinely, especially if you have allergies or tend to be congested.
  • Echinacea is thought to boost your immune system, defending against germs, and fighting infections such as flu and colds.  Echinacea should be started within 48 hours of becoming sick or exposed and taken for no longer than 10 days. Follow package label for dosing.  If you have a ragweed allergy, do not take echinacea since it’s closely related to ragweed.  In children, a reaction to echinacea can show up as a skin rash.
  • Elderberry has antioxidants and vitamins which boost your immune system.  It helps prevent or improve flu symptoms if started within 48 hours of becoming sick or exposed.  Follow package label for dosing.  There are no studies for use of elderberry in children under 12.
  • Honey, especially local honey, can help with a cough.  Take a half to 2 teaspoons at bedtime.  Avoid in children under 1 year due to botulism risk.
  • Vitamin C is thought to help prevent or minimize cold symptoms, although research has never truly established this.  Adult dosing is 1000-2000mg a day while experiencing flu symptoms.  Side effects include diarrhea – cut your dose in half if you experience this.  It can also cause kidney stones.
  • Zinc can prevent typical cold viruses from lodging in your nose and throat and keep it from multiplying.  It should be started within 24 to 48 hours of cold symptoms and used every 2 hours while awake.  It is most effective when taken in lozenge or syrup form.  Lozenges can leave a bad taste in the mouth or cause nausea.  Stop or lower the frequency.

It is best not to combine multiple supplements at one time when you are experiencing flu symptoms.  If you take a lot of medications, you should ask your family doctor if taking any supplement is safe for you because of potential drug interactions.  Most of the supplements discussed above are to be taken short term.

If your symptoms worsen, or you have a fever/cough/shortness of breath, call your doctor.

Good luck and be well!

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