Seniors around the world look to traditional remedies to ward off flu

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Garlic. Yogurt. Steamed pears. Not all seniors believe it's just the flu shot that prevents the flu. Many believe in various foods and treatments to stave off the seasonal bug, according to a new study.

Researchers at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University surveyed seniors in nine different countries to discover what techniques those who did not get a vaccine use to stay healthy. Roughly one-third of participants did not get a vaccine. The highest rate of vaccination was in Canada (93%), while the lowest rate was in Nigeria (31%).

Seniors who skipped the vaccine reported a wide range of indigenous practices to help prevent illness. Canadians said eating garlic helped fend of the flu, while the Greeks ate cheese, yogurt and honey as a cure. Seniors in Turkey, Brazil, Nigeria, China and the U.K. reported drinking (or sometimes bathing in) herbal teas and hot lemon to preserve health. Steamed pears were the treatment of choice for South Koreans. Indonesian seniors practiced “Kerokan,” defined as “chafing someone with a coin as a medical treatment.”

Seniors are at heightened risk from the effects of the flu, and should get annual vaccines, researchers conclude. It is important to regularly remind seniors about flu shots, and to create a culture in which flu shots for seniors are the norm, according to the researchers. The study appears in the Oct. edition of the Journal of Advanced Nursing.