a woman trying to get some sleep is kept awake coughing

Influenza continues to make millions of people sick around the country. There have been way too many deaths. Clearly, this year’s influenza epidemic caught health professionals by surprise, even though the Australian experience should have alerted us to the danger ahead. Australia is six months ahead of us when it comes to influenza. The vaccine was relatively ineffective there. And people were sicker than usual. We should have been better prepared. Could the flu kill someone you love?

The Old Man’s Friend?

It used to be said that the pneumonia brought on by a bad bout of flu was the old man’s friend. That’s because this lung infection is a not uncommon complication of influenza. According to the Harvard Health Letter (July, 2007):

“Sir William Osler, sometimes called the father of modern medicine, famously called it ‘friend of the aged’ (often rendered as ‘the old man’s friend’) because it was seen as a swift, relatively painless way to die. But that was over 100 years ago. Today, vaccines, antibiotics, and improved supportive care mean doctors can do a lot more about pneumonia, although it remains a major killer, capable of thwarting the best efforts at prevention and treatment.”

How Can the Flu Kill Younger, Healthier People?

Public health officials seem mystified why so many of the deaths from influenza this year have been in otherwise healthy people. We’re not talking about 80 or 90 year-olds with COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), diabetes, heart disease or cancer, though they are certainly at high risk. Young people in the prime of life are being affected. Baby boomers who have no pre-existing medical conditions are also being felled.

It is still a mystery why this year’s H3N2 flu virus is wreaking such havoc. Traditionally, the flu kills because of the body’s own immune reaction. That seems counterintuitive. Don’t we want our immune system to fight off the viral infection? The answer is yes…but. The but refers to an overreaction.

If the immune system goes into hyperdrive, it can lead to something called a cytokine storm. Inflammatory compounds made by the body can damage tissue throughout the respiratory tract. Other cells and organs can also be affected. When too many healthy cells die suddenly, the flu kills.

Secondary infections are another reason the flu kills people. Strep and staph infections can develop and also threaten the lungs. If such bacterial infections get out of hand, a blood infection can quickly overwhelm the body. Septic shock is a killer and is very hard to treat.

Heart Attacks from the Flu Kill People:

We suspect that most deaths from influenza are related to complications of respiratory infections. But others could be due to heart attacks. A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine (Jan. 24, 2018) has shown that people are six times more likely to suffer a heart attack during the first week after coming down with influenza.

Infection with flu viruses increases inflammation throughout the body. Platelets, the sticky part of blood that can form clots, are also activated. This seems to increase the possibility of a heart attack. Older patients may be especially vulnerable. Anyone who experiences symptoms such as chest pain while they are sick with flu should seek immediate medical care.

Will the Vaccine Lessen Flu Severity?

Almost every news report about this year’s flu epidemic is followed by a message to get vaccinated. The media doctors and news anchors repeat the mantra that even if the flu shot is not perfect, it will lessen the severity of the infection. Is that true?

We have tried to find solid scientific support for this idea. We were astonished to discover that there is surprisingly little good research to back up this belief. A French study published in the journal Vaccine (April 11, 2017) concluded:

Our results are consistent with previous studies reporting limited or no efficacy of the influenza vaccine in reducing illness severity at onset of symptoms.”

We recently wrote about this in much more detail. Here is a link to that article:

Will The Influenza Vaccine Protect You from Flu’s Complications?

What About Tamiflu?

We were saddened to read in the New Hampshire Union Leader (January, 28, 2018) that an otherwise healthy 38-year-old woman, Amanda Franks, died of the flu, leaving behind four children. The newspaper described the situation from the perspective of her sister, Jolene King:

“Franks went to the doctor on Sunday, Jan. 14, when she didn’t get better and was running a fever, King said.

“The mother of four tested positive for the flu and was given a prescription. 

’She said they prescribed her Tamiflu, but the doctor said the side effects were a lot of times worse than the flu, so she decided not to take it,’ King said. 

So Franks returned home and told her sister she would continue drinking lots of liquids and resting.

“’Her words exactly were, she was just going to keep fighting it on her own,’ she said.”

Tragically, Amanda Franks developed septic shock and died a few days later.

No one can say whether oseltamivir (Tamiflu) would have prevented this flu-related death. We disagree with the doctor who suggested that the side effects of Tamiflu are a lot times worse than the flu. Although many physicians do not seem to think the drug works, the CDC supports the use of the drug and states this on the website:

When treatment is started within two days of becoming sick with flu symptoms, antiviral drugs can lessen symptoms and shorten the time you are sick by about one day. They may reduce the risk of complications such as ear infections in children, and pneumonia and hospitalizations in adults.  For people at high risk of serious flu complications, early treatment with an antiviral drug can mean the difference between having milder illness instead of more severe illness that might require a hospital stay.  For adults hospitalized with flu illness, early antiviral treatment can reduce their risk of death.”

Learn more about the pros and cons of Tamiflu at this link:

The Inside Story of Tamiflu: Side Effects & Benefits

The Reader Experience with Oseltamivir (Tamiflu):

Here are just a few comments from visitors to this website:

Rosalie in Utah had a good experience:

I coughed all night, ached all over, had a fever, and as soon as I could the next morning visited Instacare and was given a prescription for Tamiflu. Cough and aching went away rapidly, and over the next day my fever subsided. I got better and better and was over it in a few days. I’d certainly take Tamiflu right away if I got the flu again. I always get a flu shot because the flu is miserable.”

Carole in Washington wasn’t sure Tamiflu worked:

I went right in to get Tamiflu within 48 hours of coming down with the flu after I saw the positive remarks about it on your website. I tested positive for influenza A. I was pretty sick for about 4 days and had the cough for a month where I then came down with post nasal drip. I am not sure it helped or not. I have only had the flu once before many years ago.”

Val in Florida had a bad experience with side effects:

I took Tamiflu as a preventive the day after being exposed to the flu. I did not come down with the flu, but the side effects were just as bad. It increased my blood pressure unacceptably and gave me nausea, headache, and horrible vertigo for several days (and even now, two and a half weeks later, I’m still having slight instances of vertigo).”

Lisa in Raleigh shared a positive story:

Our 19 year-old-son got the flu on the day before Christmas. We got him to Minute Clinic before they closed. He was prescribed Tamiflu and his fever went from 103 to 99 in two days. He felt almost fine on the fifth. He didn’t have any side effects other than it slashed the number of days he was ill.”

Share your own experience with influenza in the comment section below.

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  1. Gia

    My dad was a pharmacist, yet as a kid I don’t recall taking any meds like cough syrup, etc. except cloraseptic throat spray, vicks vapo rub, vit.c w/ honey and the probiotic Lactinex. There are debates ,articles online regarding giving aspirn, Tylenol to reduce fever. The Drs. leaving comments state they just let the fever run its course. Wonder if the healthy people who are dying are taking fever reducers, or too much??

  2. Susan

    A couple of years ago I went to a scheduled morning appointment with my doctor. The nurse took my temperature as a matter of routine, and discovered I had some fever. I was surprised because I did not feel sick yet. Because it was flu season, I was tested and the results showed that I tested positive for type A (I had received the flu vaccine a few weeks earlier). I did take the Tamiflu that was prescribed. I went home and went to bed, and started feeling worse and worse. I tried to tough it out, thinking the fever would help fight the virus, but by the evening I was feeling so bad that I took ibuprofen. When I woke up the next morning I was feeling much better and felt more well as the day went on. Within a couple of days I was feeling pretty much normal! I am sure that taking Tamiflu so early in the course of the flu helped tremendously!

  3. Audrey

    I have never had a flu shot and do not believe in poisoning my body. I believe the body needs to get sick once in a while to create immunities. I got the flu and pneumonia once, and the drugs to combat the illness were worse thatn the illness. I believe that a big problem is that parents give their children way too many medications when running a light fever and never allow the body to fight on its own. I hope our medical profession wakes up soon and realizes that the drugs are causing a lot of our health problems. I am all for natural remedies and hope our country will accept the fact that medical cannabis is the best natural drug ever. If you study the history, it has been used for many years to combat illness, and it works. Wake up America!!!!

    • Patty

      I came down with the flu at sixteen years old, before there were any vaccines for it. I was so ill, I was delirious and had to be monitered closely. Once the flu vaccine came about, I have gotten the shot nearly every year since. I do have the flu right now, but it is a fairly mild case. I have a number of health issues, especially with infections. I coinsider that a yearly flu shot a necessity to stand between me and possible death.

  4. Damita

    I am becoming a recluse, and if I did not have medical appointments, I would go nowhere!

    • Patty

      I had chest pain two weeks ago, went to the hospital to have it checked, and came down with the flu three days later. With four active flu strains in the USA, I am cancelling any appointments I can.

  5. Jill

    I used to get flu shots about 16 yrs ago. I would always get very ill with a fever and throwing up. After three yrs of that I stopped with flu shots and have had a minor virus once in 13 yrs. I’m not a believer in the flu shots. I’m 63.

    • M.T.

      I had the same experience. No flu shots for me either, I am 66 yrs old,

  6. c

    Thank GOD for your program and the real facts. NOT fake news. So-called healthy Americans dying from this flu? I would think the majority are eating the typical unhealthy American diet. Which makes me wonder just how healthy their immune systems really are with all the chemicals/sugar,hormones/antibiotics, and other things we are ingest with our food.

  7. Linda

    Thanks for your ongoing dispensing of medical research reports addressing various issues, including issues that may be controversial. In general, I think we want simple and absolute solutions to problems, especially medical ones, and life just isn’t like that very often. The mysteries of the human body and mind are still often that — mysteries. You are willing to take the heat for providing medical research information that may conflict with the general trend, even when it may result in critical or angry responses. I like that about you! I work in the medical field and see the need for responsible but critical thinking. We have the responsibility to stay as informed as possible. Thanks for helping.

  8. Ladyliza
    Los Angeles

    I forgot to mention what I have found to bring fever down fairly quickly. I read about on a Southwest flight on my way to see my daughter in college. When I got there, she had the flu and was very sick. It’s called, hydrogen peroxide. First you put it in 1 ear until it stops the sizzling sound, and then the opposite ear. Each side around 5 minutes. I put her to bed and the next morning the fever was gone. She was exhausted but much better.

  9. Ladyliza
    Los Angeles

    I came down with the flu on Christmas Eve, late at night. The fever and aches and pains were gone the by the 26th. My cough hung around for 10 days. I attribute my light case to the fact that I keep my vitamin D levels at around 65 and the minute I start getting sick, I load up with vitamin C which I keep in the freezer at all times. I have just started taking quercetin with bromelain for my allergies and hayfever. I think that would work also for flu as it calms any inflammation. I have been sick exactly twice in 12 years and that includes colds. I attribute my good fortune to my md who also has a phd in nutrition. Before meeting him, I was getting colds twice a year. My husband used to get the flu with every cold he had and would be out of work for a week. He no longer gets sick either. His vitamin D level is around 80 (a little high) but in nonetheless has a lot of protection.
    Tell your doctor in a nice way that you would like to know if you are deficient in Vitamin D, C, the the B’s. Insurance has always covered my tests. Don’t be afraid to push him if he is not a believer. Many doctors have not had these courses in school. They just don’t know.

    • Jill

      I’ll try this!! I gargle / rinse often with peroxide as well.

  10. laurie La B

    My friend and myself have been exposed to the flu. We do not get flu shots and have not had the flu. We use Sambucus (elderberry), Some of it has zinc and echinicia.

    And we use anything we know will build our immune system. Can’t remember the last I have a cold or flu.

  11. Linda

    I was exposed at work to the flu. I started feeling sick and was sure I was headed for a bad bout of it just like my work mate. I went to a Salt Room for treatment and after several visits all my symptoms were gone. Breathing microscopic particles of salt has been used in Europe for hundreds of years to treat many conditions. Check it out, my husband has had a miraculous recovery of severe sinusitis by going to The Salt Room.

  12. dzrlib
    Pasadena, CA

    Another thought is that since “dry conditions seem to offer the perfect environment for the flu virus to flourish”, one should be sure to keep your living/work quarters sufficiently humidified. I do this at home by having a roasting pan of water on the stove at minimal heat, which results in about a gallon of water being vaporized in about 12 hours. Haven’t ever had the flu.

  13. Paulis

    Today I watched a news report about a four-year-old boy who had taken tamiflu and appeared to be better. A few days later he became terribly ill and died in the hospital. This made me question whether there have been any comparisons of flu related deaths. I’m wondering if the deaths skew more toward those who’ve taken tamiflu or toward those who haven’t? I’d like to know if the risks of this medication are fully understood.

  14. KM

    I am curious about what the definition of “otherwise healthy” younger people? ” At the age of 59 years and 10 months, I am appalled at the “care” the younger people I work with give their bodies. I never get the flu (only when I smoked in my much younger years) and rarely get a cold. I drinks lots of water and eat a high fiber, high protein diet. I cannot say the same for the “otherwise healthy” younger people I work with. Frankly, I am not surprised at how often they call out sick with colds and flu. So what is the definition of “otherwise healthy”?

  15. william & Joanne L
    New York

    very interesting.

  16. Liz

    Thank God for Tamiflu. My side effects were minimal and well worth the lesser duration that I have experienced from the Type A flu virus that I have. My temperature was normal in two days. My coughing is minimal, but I still have a lot of congestion which does not surprise me. The fatigue is a challenge, but I have heard from many people that goes with it. So, after 7 days I am well on my way to being well, and grateful that I had competent doctors who knew what to prescribe for my illness. The other medicine I am taking is AMOX-CLAV and there are side effects, but nothing that would deter me from taking it. You must be on Probiotics while you are on this medication. Good Luck

  17. mary

    In 2009 took my mom to the ER . The doctor came out mad as h. He asked who had my mom get the flu shot, it was my brother. He stated that all the hospitals people were dying from this shot . He stated that the shot was generic genacide and said my mom from the shot, got congestive heart failure and tia(stroke). He took me to see her he saved her life with Magnesium Chloride. We took her to the ER 4 more times, until she died of congestive heart failure. But she had 9 tias.

  18. Suzanne

    Wow, i had diagnosis Strain A flu but too late for medication. Rode it out with Tylenol, 7 days. Left me with a cough, sinus drainage, weakness, fatigue, used up 4 sick days vacation time. Going on 30 days and two prescriptions now and only a slight lingering cough..
    My thoughts: when you know you are sick, stay home. Don’t bring* it to work to save your sick time. 30 day’s, stayed home today Vacation time, to feel better.. dizzy, still fatigued, taking care of me. People still coughing there, and now at home. I’m better off and safer at home..and they are having a Pot luck today. Should not happen til we have clean building..

  19. Cynthia J. L
    San Francisco

    In the 1970s I attendedattended medicaattended medical school at UTMB in Galveston Tx, In the 1990 s the alumni newsletter highlighted research has performed there on an animal model of I fluent A and licorice e root extracts. The Japanese researcher was aware of the use of extracts of licorice root in Japan for viral I fections. All the mice treated with the preparation survived exposure to massive amounts of flu virus and all the mice with saline placebo died. The glycyrrhizic acid component of the licorice root was responsible for the antiviral response. I found information in the German Commission E on the amount to use. It worked very well in my walk in minor emergency clinic on many patients. If your local library does not have a copy, suggest they get one from the American botanical Council.

  20. Jerry
    La Habra, CA

    Please read again: “Amanda Franks developed septic shock and died a few days later.” A septic shock is a massive invasion of bacteria. Yes, BACTERIA! The virus was there, but bacteria love to invade bodies weakened by the virus. Not a Tamiflu, but an antibiotic would have saved her. CDC should urgently issue a wake-up announcement that the mantra “Flu is a viral disease so antibiotics must not be used” has very deadly results.
    P.s. Did Amanda Franks’s family remember to teach a lesson to that doctor by suing him/her?

  21. John
    Croydon, PA

    I fear that your repeated negative statements about the efficacy of the flu vaccine will discourage people from getting a flu shot, which is counter to the best judgement of our public health officials, who have an epidemiological perspective. We each have to make a personal risk / benefit assessment, but I think that most of us should get the flu shot. Do you agree?

    • Joe Graedon


      Are you suggesting we should promote alternate facts? The Australian experience, as reported in the New England Journal of Medicine (Jan. 4, 2018), noted that “the preliminary estimate of vaccine effectiveness against influenza A (H3N2) was only 10%.” U.S. public health officials have tried very hard to make those numbers seem better in North America. We have read statements that the flu vaccine would actually be as much as 30 to 40% effective here, but such projections were based on hope rather than data.

      Now, we have actual Canadian data from this year. Guess what? Canada’s Sentinel Practitioner Surveillance Network (SPSN) reports that vaccine protection against H3N2 at 10%. Perhaps that is why so many people are suffering and dying this year. Many of them were vaccinated. And by the way John, most public health officials maintain that the vaccine will lessen symptoms and severity. As far as we can tell, that too is wishful thinking.

      French researchers writing in the journal Vaccine (April 11, 2017) noted: “Surprisingly, very few studies have addressed the question of whether the vaccine mitigates influenza severity among those who develop the illness despite being vaccinated.”

      Their research led to this conclusion: “Our results are consistent with previous studies reporting limited or no efficacy of the influenza vaccine in reducing illness severity at onset of symptoms.”

      Do you want us to support misleading statements by public health officials? Tamiflu (oseltamivir) does 1) prevent influenza, 2) shorten the duration of illness, albeit by only a day or two and 3) reduce the severity of the infection. We make that information available. Your response?

      • John
        Houston, TX

        I think the statement, “Our results are consistent with previous studies reporting limited or no efficacy of the influenza vaccine in reducing illness severity at onset of symptoms,” has been misinterpreted here. When I first read that elsewhere, I took it to mean that getting the flu vaccine at the time that symptoms first appear is ineffective, which I would expect. But I believe in the statement that getting the flu vaccine well ahead of infection can still help. That statement just makes sense to me. I believe the vaccine will at least “prime” (for lack of a better word) the immune system so it is in a greater state of readiness when an infection appears. Full disclosure, I am not a medical expert, I am an accountant.

    • Ladyliza

      John, it is well known that the government agencies are immersed in conflicts -of -interest. There is so much corruption there I certainly wouldn’t trust anything they say. I have always gone to my pharmacists for questions on meds because they are the safest bet for advice. Do your own research. It is widely known that this years vaccine was way off the mark. In fact, its efficacy is far less than the 30% the CDC is touting. When I say do your own research, I don’t mean the CDC website. Do a little digging. That’s what computers are for.

  22. Jill

    Any information on herbal protocols for the flu? Specifically the use of Andrographis?

  23. Fran

    After viewing the PBS special “The Spanish Flu” that started January -November 1918 and took the lives of 500,000 Americans and 30 billion Europeans, before it burned itself out, it is scary to think it could happen again.

  24. Beth

    Dr Paul Marik from VA has had a lot of success in treating sepsis with an IV combining Vitamin C, hydrocortisone and thiamine (vitamin B1). Learn the symptoms of sepsis and how it is different from the flu and if your loved one shows any of the signs, get them to medical treatment ASAP. And if the diagnosis is sepsis, personally I would mention Dr Marik’s protocol as a lot of physicians probably aren’t familiar with it and it could save a life.

    • Ladyliza
      Los Angeles

      Beth, thank you for mentioning this. Intravenous vitamin C is also good for the flu. The body needs high doses to fight this flu and our stomachs can’t tolerate that much in our system taking powder form or pills. My doctor starts with 25000 mg and goes up from there. Let’s hope Dr. Marik isn’t shut down by the pharmaceutical industry putting pressure on government agencies to shut them down. Since that video on youtube a few years ago where vitamin C cured the swine flu and leukemia in that New Zealand farmer who was on life support, there has been an outcry from the pharmaceutical industry to ban intraveneous vitamin C.

  25. Carolyn

    After the second outbreak in the nursing home where my mother lives, the doctor prescribed Tamiflu for all residents for whom they received permission. Will this help? and how will it help?

  26. Suzanne
    North Carolina

    I was prescribed Tamiflu 3 years ago, and am not sure I’d take it again. I had extreme nausea, hallucinations, and my legs gave out on me very suddenly one day.

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