Getting yearly flu shot is best way to prevent flu



December 2, 2019 - 9:19 AM

Dear Dr. Roach: I’ve caught a flu. That’s despite taking vitamin C, garlic and oil of oregano. I gave up on echinacea a long time ago. I try to get enough rest and live a relatively healthy life. I take no prescription drugs, and you’d think at age 59 I’d have built immunity to the latest bug.

If there’s a cold or flu circulating, I always get it. Why do I have such a bad immune system? I am diligent with handwashing and hygiene, but still, I get sick. Could it be related to extreme stress in childhood, which diminished my immune system? — S.M.

Answer: Influenza, the “flu,” is a contagious virus. Keeping your hands clean provides some protection, but the virus can be transmitted through the air in addition to hand-to-hand contact. The best way of improving your immunity to influenza is by taking the vaccine, which changes every year to best match the strains that are expected to circulate. The vaccine provides only partial protection. It’s still possible to get the flu after vaccination, but any protection is helpful. The vaccine helps reduce hospitalizations and deaths from influenza.

High amounts of stress do take their toll on the immune system, although I don’t know of proof that stress in childhood would affect you 50 years later. Unfortunately, vitamin C, garlic, oregano, echinacea and other supplements have limited if any value in preventing influenza or any of the other viruses that cause respiratory symptoms during the colder months.