14 Feb The flu
The flu is another communicable disease that is a total bummer. The flu is actually seasonal, meaning you are much more likely to get it at certain times of the year. The peak flu season is January – February, but the whole “season” lasts from October through May. (You can get the flu in the summer too but it is just much less likely since people are outdoors more and not inside in close contact.) The flu virus is caused by the influenza virus and is mostly an upper respiratory disease.
It has some shared symptoms with the common cold (cough, sore through, runny nose, nasal drip) but it also usually includes:
- fever (though some people with the flu don’t get a fever)
- headache and body aches
- nausea, vomiting, &/or diarrhea
(Source: https://www.cdc.gov/flu/consumer/symptoms.htm and
DID YOU KNOW? The flu can cause nausea and diarrhea, but it is rare. The real flu is not to be confused with a totally different illness, that is sometimes referred to as the “stomach flu” but is not the flu at all. The influenza virus is respiratory in nature. Stomach issues are about gastrointestinal problems.
A cold is certainly no fun but the flu feels AWFUL! You do not want to get it. For older people and the infirm (meaning, weak or vulnerable) it can be life threatening. For people who also get pneumonia with the flu, it is among the top ten causes of death in the United States. This is why people get a “flu shot” (or nasal spray) as a preventative effort to not get the flu. The medical community suggests that everyone 6 months and older should be vaccinated every year for the flu. Check with your doctor to see if she thinks the flu shot would be right for you.
The flu shot will protect you for ONE flu season, so you will have to get one every year. This is because the flu shot is actually made up of the most common strains of flu from the past season, thereby protecting you from them in the coming season. However, this is also why you can get the flu shot and still get the flu: you will have contracted a strain that was not in your shot. Unfortunately, the flu mutates (meaning, it changes) so much that the shot can not keep up with all the different variations. Your flu shot is sort of a “best guess” as to what you may be exposed to in the coming season. It reduces your chance of getting the flu by about 60%.
What can you do if you do get the flu? Over the counter medications may help with some of your symptoms but they won’t let you get over the flu any faster. If you think you have the flu, you are wise to consult with your doctor who can prescribe some anti-viral medications that may shorten the flu’s lifespan and may help ease some of the symptoms.
Mostly you should:
- get plenty of rest!
- drink plenty of fluids (water, thin soups, and sports drinks to prevent dehydration)
- use a humidifier for easier breathing
- use over the counter or behind the counter medications that can ease some of the painful symptoms, like decongestants for example.
The flu is a serious condition for many people. You can’t go on with usual activities when you have the flu. When you know the flu is going around the best advice is to wash your hands regularly (especially before handling food, after using the bathroom and always when they are visibly dirty or you have been in close contact with someone who is ill) and if you do get a fever, go home right away and take care of yourself. Fevers are an indication that you are fighting something—and they are usually the time when you are most contagious.
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