Flu season is here – be ready

It’s not to late to prepare yourself for a flu virus attack

child with thermometer

Influenza is a virus that attacks your respiratory system and makes most people miserable; so miserable in fact that once they have had the flu, they never miss their annual vaccines again.

Is it flu?

Influenza differs from a cold in that its onset is very sudden and the fever is higher and usually there are very prominent body aches and red, watery eyes and chills and fatigue.

“Flu face” is a combination of the watery, glassy eyes and dripping nose and generally miserable expression flu victims have that almost always gets my flu test to be positive.

We test the nasal mucus for the flu virus and it is usually positive if you have the flu, but not always. Flu is transmitted by droplets from your coughs/sneezes in the air and by the virus on your hands that can land on your colleague’s phone or child’s toy.

Why you need a flu shot

The flu bug is quite smart and changes its outer coat every year and in non-consistent ways. That means you need to get a “new” vaccine every season to be protected as well as you can be.

The vaccine works about 85 percent of the time — not 100 percent — so even if you have had a vaccine, you still need to wash your hands well to prevent any chances of infection.

Disease risks

The flu can kill people — usually the very old or young, but the flu can make you more sensitive, and even healthy people can die from the secondary bacterial infections.

People with chronic asthma, diabetes or heart problems or pregnant women are also at increased risks of death from the virus.

Complications can include:

  • Pneumonia
  • Bronchitis
  • Sinus infections
  • Ear infections.

Millions of dollars are lost each year because of work and school absences due to the flu.

About the vaccine

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that everyone over the age of 6 months get annual influenza vaccines to keep you and others safe from this deadly disease.

If you are allergic to eggs you should consult with your physician before receiving the vaccine as it is developed in chicken eggs and may cause a reaction. In most cases though, the reaction to the vaccine is minor and is much less a misery than the disease itself.

The vaccine is the only preventative, and there are no medicines that will “cure” the flu once you are infected.

Antivirals like oseltamivir (Tamiflu) and zanamivir (Relenza) may shorten the illness by one day or prevent some serious complications, but they have their own potential side effects such as nausea, vomiting and delirium and the influenza germ can become resistant to these medications if we over prescribe them.

If you get the flu

If you do manage to come down with the virus, stay home, and take these steps:

  • Wash your hands and contain your coughs and sneezes;
  • Drink lots of fluids;
  • Rest;
  • Use ibuprofen or acetaminophen for pain or fever
    But do not take aspirin or aspirin containing medicines because there is a risk of Reye’s syndrome, a rare but potentially fatal disease, that only occurs if you have flu or chickenpox and take aspirin.

It’s not too late

Do not be afraid, get your annual influenza vaccine now and protect yourself and your loved ones against this deadly disease.

Avatar About the Author

I enjoy children and love to work with them as they grow and mature. The relationships I form between my patients and their families make my career particularly rewarding. I practice medicine democratically, developing a partnership between physician, patient and family. Listening to my patients is my best asset.
Read more about me on my biography page.