Even if you're a 21st-century Scrooge, we predict you'll be doing a lot of
giving and receiving this holiday season. Maybe a guy at your job will hand you
the rhinovirus (he shouldn't have!), after which you'll go home and promptly
regift it to your family. Or perhaps a stranger will sneeze, donating some mucus-wrapped
influenza to you and everyone else in the checkout line. It's enough to make a
man feel all warm and fuzzy inside, though that's probably just your low-grade
Coughing and congestion aside, the real problem is that these gifts truly keep
on giving. "Your immune system launches an inflammatory storm to fight off
the invaders," says David Agus, M.D., a professor of medicine at the
University of Southern California and the author of The End of Illness.
"Just 2 weeks of this total-body inflammation--which is the time it takes
to recover from a bad cold or the flu--can increase your long-term risk of
heart disease, cancer, and diabetes."
Maybe you didn't expect a present, but we have something for you anyway: a
custom plan for staying well and, if you do fall ill, for bouncing back fast.
For: Flu survival When: As soon as the symptoms strike
The flu can hit with the speed and fury of a UFC fighter. So if you wake up
feeling like you've been pummeled by Georges St-Pierre, ask your doctor ASAP
about a prescription antiviral med, such as Tamiflu or Relenza. "They work
best within 24 to 48 hours of the onset of symptoms," says Dr. Agus. These
drugs won't eliminate all symptoms, but they lessen their severity and reduce
recovery time by 1 to 2 days. Note: Your doctor may advise sticking to OTC
options, since overprescribing of antivirals could cause drug resistance.