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Infections and the flu — why they must be avoided to beat multiple sclerosis February 10, 2009

Posted by Rebecca Hoover in Infections - why and how to avoid them.
Being sick is no fun and infections can make MS worse.  Avoid bacterial and viral infections whenever possible.

Being sick is no fun and infections can make MS worse. Avoid bacterial and viral infections whenever possible.

Scientists have found that both viral and bacterial infections can cause multiple sclerosis (MS) relapses. Unfortunately, studies show that MS relapses are caused by almost every type of infection — urinary tract infections, respiratory tract infections, influenza, etc.

Given the problems caused by infections, the only intelligent approach is to avoid infections whenever possible. There are a few simple steps you can take to do this. These involve hygiene, quitting smoking if you smoke, avoiding those with viral infections, using the right fabrics for underwear and staying as healthy as possible with a good diet and other healthy life style choices. One study event showed that keeping one’s Vitamin D level at the the high end of the normal range eliminates almost all colds and flu.  This is great news because Vitamin D3 is already our best friend.

The first step, hygiene, involves understanding that most infections are spread by hands so frequent hand washing is the most important thing you can do to avoid infections. The right way to wash one’s hands is a bit more complex than the type of hand washing most of us learned as children. The right way to wash one’s hands involves the following steps:

  1. Carefully avoid touching any part of the sink after turning on the water faucet.
  2. Wet your hands with warm water and apply enough soap to develop a generous amount of lather.
  3. Vigorously rub your hands together for at least 15 seconds. (The friction helps remove germs.)
  4. Be sure you wash all parts of the hand, including your wrists, the back of your hands, your palms, between your fingers and under your fingernails.
  5. Be sure to scrub the tips of your fingers, thumbs and nails by rubbing them in the palm of your hands.
  6. Rinse your hands.
  7. Dry your hands with a clean towel.
  8. Turn off the faucet with a towel.

It is probably wise to be more careful about following all of these steps when you might be exposed to infection or are away from home.

Second, in addition to frequent hand washing, avoiding long and polished fingernails is important. Scientists have found that about 85% to 90% of long and polished fingernails are contaminated with gram positive bacteria. This is why doctors and nurses do not wear long fingernails or nail polish, and this is why those with MS are wise to avoid long and polished finger nails.

As a third step, if you smoke, it is important to quit. Unfortunately, those who smoke do get more frequent infections and colds and potentially more MS relapses.

Fourth, it is important to avoid others who have colds or influenza. It is easy to catch both colds and influenza especially during some months. There is good news here too — more recent research shows that taking Vitamin D3 eliminates most colds and flu as discussed below.

Fifth, women are best off with 100% cotton underwear–they will help you avoid bladder infections. There is no need to worry about attractiveness–the 100% cotton styles come in a variety of colors and styles and are attractive and stylish.

Sixth, do get flu shots and other needed vaccines unless your doctor recommends that you avoid them for some reason. I always have an annual flu shot and will get the vaccine for H1N1 and similar flu when they are available. Be sure to note that experts recommend that those with MS avoid the vaccines with live viruses and get only those vaccines that include the dead viruses.

Seventh, do get enough Vitamin D3. One study showed that 14,000 IU per day almost completely eliminated colds and flu. I personally take about 4,000 IU per day because that is what is needed to keep my level at the high end of the normal range — right where I want it. Other scientists have found that Vitamin D even helps prevent gum disease and dental caries and the worst asthma problems.

Finally, one of the best ways to avoid infections is to stay as healthy as possible by eating right, sleeping enough, taking supplements when needed and exercising. Please see my posts on just what eating right means for those with MS. The nutrition needs of those with MS, for example, are best met with the use of a diet designed by doctors for those with MS.

If worst comes to worst and you do get a viral or bacterial infection, treat it aggressively to avoid an MS relapse. For colds and minor viral infections, get extra rest and eat especially nutritious foods including citrus fruits if possible. For other infections, see a doctor promptly. Don’t delay. An untreated infection can make MS worse than it needs to be.

Of course, an ounce of prevention is always worth a pound of cure — so focus on prevention including hand washing, not smoking, avoiding those with viral infections, use of cotton underwear, a healthy diet and enough sleep.

Please let me know if you find my blog helpful. Please add a comment. What did you like? What would you like added? Thanks! Together we can change the way the world views MS. Please also join the Intelligent Guide to MS page on Facebook. I will use that page to make timely posts on new research and other issues likely to be of interest to others.

Please remember to with consult your doctors about how to stay as healthy as possible. Nothing here should be interpreted as medical advice. Instead, please use the information you find here in your discussions with your doctor.

Copyright 2008 Rebecca Hoover

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Tags: Colds, Flu, Infection, Influenza, MS, Multiple Sclerosis



1. Lisa Emrich - September 20, 2008

Excellent advice on the hand washing. I have also heard recommendations that at least 30 seconds is desirable, about the time it takes to sing ‘Happy Birthday’ to yourself at a leisurely pace.

As a piano teacher who has many children sharing the same keyboard, I require pre-lesson hand washing and clean, trim finger nails. Unfortunately, children simply are not taught proper methods of washing. I’ve even had mothers who didn’t follow through and insist that their children wash with soap and water before spreading their germs all over my piano.

Ugh. And don’t get me started on the habit of sneezing or coughing directly into the piano teacher’s face. It’s an adventure.

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