Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house
Not a creature was stirring,
Except for the sniffling and coughing and tossing and turning.
The Flu was afoot! With fevers a-burning.
Ahh the flu. It’s a name we throw around a lot, especially during the winter time, but do we all truly understand what ‘flu’ actually means and implies?
The flu is a virus that attacks the body. When you get infected by the flu, you get symptoms like high fevers, cough, runny nose, body aches, headaches, sore throat, tiredness, and tummy aches. Unlike bacterial infections, your body can fight the flu off on its own, unless you are very young or have medical issues that increase your risk for complications. These would be patients with asthma or other lung diseases, children less than 5 years of age, patients with compromised immune systems (those on cancer treatment or with HIV), pregnant women, adults greater than 65 years of age, and those with heart, liver or metabolic disease.
The flu is spread from person to person. Usually, people are already infectious one day before their symptoms even start. The flu virus spreads via droplets (coughs and snot). People are most infective around the 3rd day of illness and while they are still having fevers. As long as they are coughing and having a runny nose, there is a virus traveling through their bodies. Good hand-washing is key! No kissing or sharing drinks either!
What should you do if you find yourself ill with the flu?
For most people, staying home and taking fever-reducers to keep comfortable and getting good hydration is enough to kick the flu. While symptoms usually last 5-7 days, some people get better in 3 days while others feel the symptoms for up to 2 weeks.
For those who are younger or have a higher risk of infection, a medicine called Tamiflu can help. It is an antiviral, and attacks the flu virus specifically. It does have side effects and is costly, so discussing the pros and cons is an important conversation to have with your doctor. Remember that you do not need Tamiflu to get better, but it can help decrease the duration of symptoms.
The most important part is understanding the value of vaccinations. There are many reasons to get vaccinated. The vaccine is made up of proteins that train your body how to recognize and respond to the flu. As part of this training, your body gives an immune response that can give you flu-like symptoms or local reaction at the injection site, but these are short lived and less intense than a visit from the actual flu germ.
Some years the vaccine works very well at preventing you from getting the flu. Sometimes you can get the flu anyways but your immune system will be better equipped to fight it off if you have the vaccine ahead of time.
What are complications of the flu?
The flu can lead to a bacterial “super infection”. Examples would be pneumonia or ear infections. If you find yourself ill with the flu and getting worse for over a week or if you develop ear pain, then follow up with your doctor to make sure the flu has not turned into something else that would require a different treatment plan.
Unlike the Grinch, there’s very little chance the flu is going to learn the value of Christmas and return all your precious moments back that it stole from you. That is why it is important to be proactive by getting vaccinated, knowing how to avoid the flu, and identifying the symptoms as soon as possible so you can talk to your doctor and avoid passing it on to loved ones.
Don’t let the flu steal your Christmas from you!
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