Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Preparing for the Flu

A couple of weeks ago I headed out of the country, planning to get a little R & R in a nice sunny location. Before the plane even taxied to the gate, I had come down with the flu. Now, I could blame the woman sitting a couple of rows behind me who looked like the poster child for pandemic flu as she hacked and moaned her way across the Pacific, however it does take a few days for the virus to gestate so I'm sure I picked it up somewhere closer to home. As I rolled around in misery for a week and a half in my four star hotel (not all bad as it is nice to have someone cook for you, serve you, and clean up your room on a regular basis when you are sick) I did have time to peruse the internet to find out more about the flu--an affliction I hadn't had for more than a decade. Here's what you need to know...

Before you get sick:
  • Keep yourself in good shape and eat a healthy diet (ie: lay off the sweets and junk food and exercise)
  • Get a flu shot. This is a hit or miss proposition as sometimes they work and sometimes they don't.
  • Keep your distance from people. The flu virus is passed person to person through droplet contact; if you're within sneezing distance of a sick person you are much more likely to catch what they have.
  • Wash your hands OFTEN. People who are sick usually cough into their hands then transfer their germs via anything they touch such as the telephone receiver, a pen, a handshake, the computer keyboard, etc.
  • Don't touch your face. The virus enters your body through mucus membranes (eyes, nose, mouth) so when someone coughs on a pen and you then use the pen then set the pen down and rub your eyes, you have just transferred the virus to it's new host--you.
  • Prepare ahead of time. Put together a comprehensive first aid kit and have plenty of tissue and soup on hand. When you are hacking up a lung is not the time to be schlepping to the store to buy your cold medicine and dinner.
After you get the flu:
  • Figure on getting the following symptoms: fatigue, fever, headache, muscle aches, cough, runny nose, etc.
  • Isolate yourself. Better to suffer alone than to be out and about sharing your germs and infecting others.
  • Drink lots of liquids (water, broth, tea, juice, etc) to help your system flush out the virus.
  • Don't take antibiotics. People think that antibiotics can cure everything, however antibiotics treat bacterial infections (sinus infection, lung infection, bladder infection), they do not treat viral infections.
  • Consider taking an anti-viral. Most of us should just ride out the experience, suffer for a bit, and marvel at our immune response, however there are anti-viral drugs available for certain situations that a doctor can prescribe that can significantly decrease the length and severity of the flu.
  • Treat the symptoms. If you're tired then rest. Have a headache/body ache/fever? Use Tylenol or Motrin. Cough and/or runny nose? Cough syrup and/or Sudafed can cover up the symptoms.
  • Even though you feel like hell, avoid the clinic or hospital unless necessary. Call the nurse hotline for direction if needed, and of course call 911 if symptoms become dangerous (extremely high fever, difficulty breathing).
More info:

1 comment:

  1. Air travel is rife with colds and flu. The last two vacations I caught the flu flying between NH am Miami. The only two times I have been ill in ten years.

    I also suggest you take Zicam several days before, during, and after each flight as a preventative. They seem to help.

    Good post and excellent links, thank you.