The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is urging virtually everyone to get the 2011 flu shot, noting that immunity from last year's strains may not be strong enough for the upcoming flu season.
The flu strains expected to circulate this flu season are identical to the 2010-2011 flu season strains, including the H1N1 virus. Like last year, the government is recommending that everyone 6 months old and older be vaccinated as soon as flu shots are available at clinics or your doctor's office.
The CDC says that babies and children ages 6 months to 8 years old will require two shots this year unless they were vaccinated last year, in which case they only need one this year.
Flu shot or not, it's still important to head into the flu season with a strong immune system, and with some proven natural remedies on hand to tackle flu symptoms, if you are unlucky enough to come down with the bug.
Now's the time to boost your immune system and read up on natural flu remedies.
• Boost your health now. Vow to exercise 30 minutes a day, load up on fruits and vegetables, have a routine blood test to make sure you're not vitamin D deficient (and if you are, supplement accordingly), and cut out processed foods.
Other immune-boosting options include taking Panax quinquefolius, more commonly known as American ginseng. Clinical trials have shown it can prevent colds and flu.
• Keep a cup of coffee handy. If the flu does strike, don't be afraid to reach for some coffee for relief. Many cold and flu drugs contain caffeine for its decongestant properties, but a cup of organic coffee doesn't harbor all of the artificial food coloring and preservatives found in many cold and flu relief medicines. (Go easy on the sugar, though, since it could hinder your immune system.)
• Seek elderberry. Clinical trials have supported the use of elderberry to reduce flu symptoms. In the 1990s, Israeli researchers put folk use to the test and found that elderberry really does slow the replication of flu viruses, speeding up recovery. Sambucol is the most popular elderberry product on the market, in case you don't have any homemade elderberry jam on hand.