Our resident Health Diva, Dr. Janna Andrews, gives you tips on beating the flu!
‘Tis the season for sneezing, coughing, chill and other signs of sickness. What is the flu exactly? It is a respiratory illness that is caused by the influenza virus. Once the virus has entered the respiratory system it can then enter the blood stream and cause very serious complications. The flu can have similar symptoms as the “common cold,” but the cold originates from a different virus.
Flu symptoms include coughing, sneezing, congestion, fever, body aches and headaches. Unfortunately, the flu can progress to bacterial pneumonia and worsening of pre-existing conditions like asthma or diabetes. Indeed, the complications from the flu can be life threatening.
Infants, the elderly and people with chronic illness such as diabetes or heart disease are at highest risk of contracting the flu. The CDC estimates the flu causes approximately 20,000 hospitalizations every year and up to 49,000 annual deaths.
Inhaling respiratory droplets that contain the virus spreads the flu. Here’s how can you avoid it this season:
Hand washing is critical because using a contaminated instrument and touching your mouth, eyes or nose can spread the flu.
The flu vaccine can help to prevent becoming infected by certain strains of the flu. The vaccine is a killed virus that protects against the three most common predicted strains of the influenza virus. The vaccine cannot cause the flu. The best time to get the vaccine is in September before flu season begins, which runs from October to May. It can take up to two weeks for the flu shot to become effective as the body builds antibodies to the flu. The vaccine is available as a shot or a nasal spray.
Anyone with an allergy to eggs, is less than six months of age, or has a history of Guillain-Barre syndrome, and anyone that has had a severe reaction to the vaccine in the past should not get the flu vaccine.
If you unfortunately already have the flu, there are a few things you can do.
Antibiotics treat bacterial infections; so do not use them to treat the flu. Over
the counter medications like, tamiflu and relenza are antiviral medications that
may be effective if taken within the first few days of the flu. Decongestants and
antihistamines can help with the flu symptoms, but they wont make you less
This year, the flu has caused a major epidemic and has really put a strain on the medical systems. The number of hospitalizations and deaths could be reduced if people would make sure to get their flu vaccine every year. If you havenΓÇÖt gotten your vaccine yet and you donΓÇÖt have any symptoms its not too late!
photo credit: David Castillo Dominici/FDP.net