- Vitamin D is a necessary hormone to influence and support immune function. The recommended daily allowance (RDA) for vitamin D is 400 international units (IU). Doctors often recommend at least 2,000 IU to people during the winter months and recommend that people get their serum (blood) 25OH vitamin D levels checked every six to 12 months.
- Vitamin C improves immune function and provides protection to the body in times of stress and illness. The RDA for vitamin C is 90 milligrams. This is the amount necessary to prevent deficiency diseases like scurvy. Doctors generally recommend 1,000 milligrams per day to people, and advise them to increase to 3,000 milligrams per day in times of stress or illness.
- Zinc is an essential mineral in the body that is necessary for immune function. The RDA for zinc is 15 milligrams. Doctors typically recommend 15 to 20 milligrams per day and shortterm intake of 30 to 40 milligrams in times of illness. It is not recommended to take “megadoses” of zinc for extended periods of time due to how the body must metabolize zinc.
- Nacetyl cysteine (NAC) is an amino acid that improves liver and lung function, thins mucus and increases antioxidant production. There is no established RDA for NAC. Generally doctors recommend 600 to 1,800 milligrams per day when fighting upper respiratory infections (URIs). NAC can thin mucus in the stomach and contains sulfur, so some people report that it irritates their stomach.
- Probiotics introduce more friendly gut bacteria that stimulate innate immunity and protect against foreign bacteria/viruses. Again, probiotics do not have a RDA. Doctors typically recommend 4 to 8 billion colony forming units per day.
1 AnswerMultiple Sclerosis Foundation answeredThe following over-the-counter supplements and vitamins are recommended to reduce your chance of getting colds and flu:
1 AnswerDuring flu epidemics, the hospitalization rate for older people increases two to five times. Flu vaccinations are necessary every year because the flu virus constantly changes. Vaccination helps prevent both the flu and its more serious complications, such as pneumonia. And, no, you cannot get the flu from a flu shot. Everyone 65 and older should get a flu shot every year between September and mid-November, unless they are allergic to eggs. Side effects of the flu vaccine are usually rare.
1 AnswerFlu vaccines are available in two forms: injection and nasal spray. The injection form, which contains inactivated virus, is approved for children 6 months and older while the nasal spray, containing live but attenuated virus, is an alternative for healthy people between the ages of 2 and 49.
Because the flu vaccine is not approved for children younger than 6 months, the best way to protect these vulnerable infants is to make sure parents, elder siblings and caregivers all receive the vaccine.
1 AnswerUnlike some viruses, influenza virus varies from season to season. While some vaccinations provide a lifetime of protection against a particular disease, a new flu vaccine is formulated every year to contain the three strains expected to be most common during the upcoming flu season. For example, the 2010-2011 flu vaccine protected against H1N1, the “swine flu” strain that caused an unusually high number of deaths during the previous season.
Flu season typically runs between late December and February. Children should receive the flu vaccine as soon as it becomes available.
1 AnswerSeasonal influenza is a contagious but preventable respiratory illness that can be dangerous for young children. Every year, approximately 20,000 children under the age of five years are hospitalized because of complications from the flu, with some developing serious health problems such as pneumonia or bacterial infections. Although deaths are rare, dozens of children die from flu complications every flu season.
1 AnswerAlzheimer's Foundation of America answeredHere are some suggestions if you are a caregiver for a person with dementia who might have the flu:
- Check the temperature of the person with dementia on a regular basis, but remember that persons with dementia may have less fever rise than other individuals.
- Contact your primary care doctor if you think the individual with dementia has the flu.
- Monitor the amount of food and fluids the person you are caring for consumes.
- Wear a mask and try to keep a mask on the person with dementia if either of you get the flu.
- Wash your hands often and avoid spreading the infection as best as possible.
- Monitor how often the person with dementia drinks fluid and urinates to avoid dehydration. Remind the individual with dementia to drink fluid on a schedule to assure adequate oral fluid intake.
- Use Tylenol or aspirin if cleared by your doctor. Remember that the person you are caring for may forget to ask for the medication. Always follow the instructions on the fever medicine bottle and instructions provided by your doctor.
- Be prepared that the individual with dementia may experience more behavioral problems during the flu; consider contacting your family network to enlist support.
- Some cold medicines that contain diphenhydramine or other decongestants may worsen a person's confusion.
- Antibiotics like penicillin do not work for the flu. Consult your doctor about a Tamiflu prescription, which may reduce the severity of the flu symptoms.
- Do not take someone to a day program if you think that the person has the flu.
- Watch for other health problems, especially in people with diabetes, asthma, chronic lung disease, or obstructive pulmonary disease, or individuals receiving immune suppressing drugs such as steroids.
- Healthy older persons are often sick for about one week and suffer chronic fatigue that may last for several weeks. Develop a caregiver backup plan for yourself in the event that you also become ill.
- Maintain the same devotion and sense of humor toward this challenge that you have toward every other challenge in caring for a person with dementia.
“Over-the-counter (OTC) medications such as antihistamines, cough suppressants and decongestants may mask some cold and cough symptoms, but there has never been good evidence that they work,” says Dennis Woo, MD, UCLA pediatrician. “Moreover, for children under two, there is the added concern that we don’t have reliable information about safe and proper dosages.”
Dr. Woo also notes that antibiotics, which fight bacteria, are not effective for treating colds, which are caused by viruses. In fact, overuse of antibiotics can lead to antibiotic resistance and reduced effectiveness when they are needed to fight a bacterial infection.
Further, OTC topical remedies that are rubbed into a child’s chest may provide a soothing smell, but there is no evidence that this helps with cough or congestion. Dr. Woo notes that studies have shown over-dosage of this type of medication may lead to seizures in children under the age of two.