RODALE NEWS, EMMAUS, PA—Tactics for preventing swine flu include practicing good hygiene and hand washing, getting a swine flu shot (unfortunately, there have been delays in shipments of the vaccine) and staying out of crowded areas like the mall or movie theater if there's an outbreak in your community. Prevention isn't a guarantee, though, as an estimated 2 million people who have been sickened by the H1N1, or swine flu, virus so far in the United States have found. For those of us who end up catching swine flu, treatment options include antiviral medication. But unless you're in a high risk group—you have a weak immune system or fall into certain age groups, for example—simple self-care will be the primary means of getting through a bout of swine flu. Along with bed rest, that means making good choices regarding your diet.
Here are the swine flu treatment options that should be part of your meal plan:
Eat like a health nut. If you're sidelined with swine flu, now is the perfect time to trade in Twinkies and other processed foods for whole (and preferably organic) fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. These foods are bursting with phytochemicals and other plant compounds that can boost your health, gearing your body up for a strong fight against illness. If you're sick with the flu, sometimes the last thing you want to do is eat, though. So keep these foods in reach, but let your appetite guide you. Vitamin D3 is key to immune system health, so it's also a good idea to talk to your doctor about supplementing with this vitamin.
Focus on hydration. Hydration is important for everyone, but it is an absolutely critical part of swine flu treatment, particularly because this flu causes dehydrating symptoms like nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea in some patients. Even if you don't feel like eating, make sure you sip on water, juices, and Gatorade to stay hydrated. Caretakers should likewise be sure that their sick charges take plenty of liquids. "Around 90 percent get fever and 10 to 20 percent of people get nausea, vomiting, and/or diarrhea, so fluids and hydration are key," stresses doctor and registered dietician Christine Gerbstadt, MD, spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association. "Salty broths [but not in excess] help during fever to keep thirst active. Juices, smoothies with protein powder, yogurt, and fruit can support nutrition until the appetite returns."
If you or a loved one do become ill from swine flu, make sure you read our story on monitoring and treating swine flu symptoms.
Dilute some liquids. Liquids rich in vitamins and minerals are crucial to drink when you have the flu, whereas too much sugar can cause diarrhea when you're sick. Try diluting juices, ginger ale, and other sugar-sweetened drinks with water before drinking. Allow soft drinks to go flat before drinking so the bubbles don't cause stomach gas.
Published on: October 21, 2009
Updated on: March 11, 2010