Well, spring has finally sprung -- and typically, its arrival signals the end of flu season.
But this year's flu season has been SO bad that public health officials are projecting that it could last all the way through mid-April!
You see, even though new cases of this season's main flu virus have tapered off, a bunch of folks are now being infected by a secondary strain that could lead to a late-season "bump."
So, it's no time to slack on flu prevention -- and not only because you want to avoid the miserable fever, chills, congestion, and body aches that come along with the flu.
According to a new study, the flu may also wreak havoc on your BRAIN!
In the study, published in the Journal of Neuroscience, researchers exposed female mice to three different strains of the flu.
And it turned out that two of them -- H3N2 (this season's main strain) and H7N7 -- caused changes in the hippocampus, a brain region involved in storing and recalling short- and long-term memories.
The viruses made changes to the structure AND function of the hippocampus that left the mice with memory impairments that lasted for a month after they were infected with the flu.
What's more, the flu also activated their brains' immune systems, kicking up inflammation that actually altered certain genes.
In fact, their brains didn't fully recover for FOUR MONTHS!
And we know that any time your brain is consumed by the "flames" of inflammation for an extended period, you're more at risk for a host of neurological diseases.
Previous studies have even linked the flu to everything from stroke to Guillain-Barré syndrome, in which your own immune system attacks your nerves.
That means that if you do catch the flu, you should be on high alert for neurological symptoms like memory loss, brain fog, or severe headache... and seek medical attention immediately if you're concerned.
But your best bet for avoiding complications in your gray matter is simply to avoid catching the flu in the first place.
And since the flu shot only protects 1 in 3 people, try natural ways to strengthen your system against the flu instead.
- Take good care of yourself: Get plenty of rest, exercise regularly, and reduce stress to keep your immune system strong. And wash your hands frequently when you're out and about so that flu germs don't hitch a ride home with you.
- Load up on "good" bugs: Studies have shown that probiotics can slash your risk of catching a bad bug, so take a probiotic supplement and/or eat fermented foods like yogurt and sauerkraut.
- Turn to vitamins and herbs: Vitamins C and D can give your immune system an extra boost, as can the herbal trio of echinacea, andrographis, and eleutherococcus (a.k.a. Siberian ginseng).
That way, you'll make sure that if you catch "Spring Fever," it doesn't land you in bed... or worse!