This years Influenza season is upon us in full force. Typically, flu season can be from late fall to early spring with most cases in February and March. This year, we are seeing widespread flu cases in more than 40 U.S. states already. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) keeps a map of active flu cases, take a look, this is pretty impressive!! Click here for CDC Flu Map.
Influenza is a highly contagious respiratory virus that attacks the lungs, throat, and nasal passages.
- body aches
- dry cough
- sore throat
- runny/stuffy nose
- and sometimes nausea, vomiting and diarrhea
The flu most commonly starts with severe acute symptoms. One day you are fine, the next you are down for the count. It can last from a few days to a couple weeks. Influenza is most dangerous for babies <2 years old, adults >65 years old, asthmatics, those with blood disorders, those with chronic health conditions involving the lungs, heart, kidneys, nervous system, endocrine system, those with a compromised immune system, as well as other chronic health disorders.
BTW- Many people will have vomiting and diarrhea, and call it the flu. This is actually called gastroenteritis, most people will call it “the stomach flu.” It’s a virus, not an influenza at all. For more information about gastroenteritis, please check out my post, Yuck, the throw-ups…
How do you get the flu?? The flu is contracted through respiratory droplets of the infected person 24 hours before the symptoms are present, and throughout the course of the illness. These particles are spread through coughing and sneezing, hence the ever so important “cover your cough (sneeze)” etiquette. People are contagious before they actually come down with the symptoms, awhich is why the virus is so easily and rapidly spread.
So, why is the flu so dangerous?? The flu can cause other complications, such as dehydration, ear inflections, sinus infections, asthma flare ups, and the most dangerous is pneumonia. According to the CDC, “approximately 5% to 20% of U.S. residents get the flu, and more than 200,000 are hospitalized for flu-related complications each year. Over a period of 30 years, between 1976 and 2006, estimates of flu-associated deaths in the United States range from a low of about 3,000 to a high of about 49,000 people.” (http://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/qa/disease.htm)
Can you get the flu if you had the flu shot/mist? There are many different strains of the flu, the vaccine currently protects against 3 different strains. The companies that develop the flu vaccine for the U.S. study the trends of influenza in other parts of the world prior to determining which strains to put in the current years vaccine. Do they always get it right? No. Even if the current flu is a different strain, just having the antibodies from the vaccine should decrease the severity of symptoms and duration of illness for those vaccinated individuals. Children under 6 months of age cannot get the vaccine. I am a strong believer that household contacts of those most at risk for complications should be vaccinated to decrease the risk of transmission. For example, if you have a baby less than 6 months of age in the house, all of the family members should be vaccinated. Think about how easy it is for that 5 year old brother in kindergarten to get the flu in school and bring it home… And, if you haven’t had your flu vaccine yet, it’s not too late!
Can you do anything about the flu once you have symptoms? I always recommend increasing hydration and Vitamin C. Vitamin C helps boost the immune system, helping your body fight off infection faster. Some physicians will prescribe an antiviral medication, such as Tamiflu. Tamiflu should not be prescribed for everyone. Healthy people can usually fight the virus without antiviral medication. Antiviral meds should be reserved for the most compromised patients, such as the elderly, those with chronic lung disease, etc. I’m not a true believer in the efficacy of Tamiflu. I have a pharmacist friend that says the same thing. Has Tamiflu worked for some people? Yes. The guidelines for Tamiflu say that it must be started within the first couple days of symptoms to be effective, and may reduce symptoms and duration of illness.
So far in my office, we are seeing both Influenza A and Influenza B… Not good! All but one of our positive flu tests have been unvaccinated individuals. Has the flu shot helped? You tell me… It is looking like a bad flu year. Hopefully, it will come and go quickly, but it could be here for a while, and threaten to get worse and more widespread before we see it disappear.
How can you avoid the flu??
- It’s not too late to get vaccinated.
- Hand wash, hand wash, hand wash!!!!!
- If it’s possible to avoid crowded situations, do so.
- You just don’t know who touched that grocery cart before you, so, wipe it down.
- Keep little children and babies home.
- And, if you are sick, stay home!
- If your friends or co-workers are sick, tell them to stay home!
The flu is miserable, it is dangerous, and for some it is life threatening. It can take you out of school or work for a week or more. It can take another few weeks to completely recover. You don’t just bounce right back from the flu. You have to build yourself and your energy back up, and that takes time.
If you are worried someone in your family has the flu, you can get tested by your local provide. The flu test is a quick swab up the nose, and about a 10 minute wait.
Here’s to hoping your family stays well during this flu season, so that you and yours can continue to Enjoy the Journey!!