Welcome back everyone. It was a long beautiful holiday season but all good things must come to an end. But sometimes they end a little harsher than others. In the North East we are in the throws of Flu season. The flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses. Seasonal flu epidemics occur yearly during the colder months. Although the yearly impact of influenza varies, it affects the health of New Yorkers each season. The flu is not just a really bad cold. The flu is a contagious illness that affects the nose, throat, lungs, and other parts of the body. It can spread quickly from one person to another. It can cause mild to severe illness, and at times can lead to death. Unlike a cold, flu symptoms start suddenly. They appear about 1 to 4 days after a person is exposed to the flu. Symptoms of the flu can include fever or feeling feverish/chills, muscle or body aches, cough, headache, sore throat, tiredness, runny or stuffy nose, and some people even have diarrhea or vomiting, although this is more common in children. This laundry list of ailments is clearly something to take seriously. The real question is, how can you best protect yourself from catching the flu?
It’s really quite simple: remember when you were listening to the radio and you heard 100 commercials urging you to get a flu shot? Get that flu shot! The flu vaccine has many benefits. The flu vaccine can help make your illness less severe if you do get sick with the flu. The flu vaccine can reduce the risk of being hospitalized with the flu for children and adults. Also, the flu vaccine protects pregnant women during and after pregnancy from flu complications and it also protects their newborn children for several months after birth. The flu vaccine reduces the risk of a heart attack in people with heart disease. The flu vaccine can reduce the risk of a child dying from the flu. The flu vaccine can reduce the risk of adults dying from the flu. Lastly, getting a flu vaccine can also help protect the people around you from getting the flu, especially people at high risk for serious complications from the flu. For more information on the benefits of the flu vaccine, check out this fact sheet: https://www.cdc.gov/flu/pdf/freeresources/general/strong-defense-against-flu.pdf
I’m sure you’re all wondering though, I remember getting the flu shot in the past and I still got the flu, how is that possible? The short answer is that there are many different strains of the flu virus that gets people sick. The flu shots that we take generally target only one version of the virus, but is often the most common strain so you are in all likelihood best protected when getting the vaccine. But, there are no guarantees in life and that brings us to the final thought.
If you do catch the flu, do not be a hero! The world famous Mayo Clinic explains that in order to get over the flu you'll need nothing more than bed rest and plenty of fluids. Choose water, juice and warm soups to prevent dehydration and stay away from caffeinated drinks like coffee and tea. You also need to get more sleep to help your immune system fight infection. You may need to change your activity level, depending on your symptoms. Another option is to consider pain relievers. Use an over-the-counter pain reliever, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol, others) or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others), to combat the achiness associated with influenza. Children and teens recovering from flu-like symptoms should never take aspirin because of the risk of Reye's syndrome, a rare but potentially fatal condition. If you have severe infection or are at higher risk for complications, your doctor may prescribe an antiviral medication, such as oseltamivir (Tamiflu), zanamivir (Relenza), peramivir (Rapivab) or baloxavir (Xofluza). These drugs may shorten your illness by a day or so and help prevent serious complications.
In summary, the flu is no bad cold. Make sure to take all the precautions you can including washing your hands often, avoiding getting too close to someone displaying symptoms, and most importantly getting that flu shot. If you do catch the flu consult with your primary care physician to make sure you are doing everything you can to get well quickly. Lastly, do yourself and everyone you know a favor, if you’re sick stay home and rest it out. Your employer will thank you, you’ll help keep you co-workers healthy, and you’ll feel better. Bundle up!