Health, Wellness, and Fitness: 10/20

One flu over the cuckoo’s nest

By Marsha Bonhart

Being hit by a truck is not the way I want to leave this world, but my sister insists because I am never sick, something traumatic will happen to me. Not a pleasant thought, but I understand what she is saying.

I caught a cold last year, the first one in 10 years, and I have never had the flu. Sometimes, because of those infrequencies, I feel as if I am not a member of the human race. Catching a cold is almost a rite of passage and the flu, you will encounter at least once in your lifetime. My lifetime has already exceeded several decades and, still, there has been no bout with that virus.

Trust me, I am not asking to greet the mean bug that can not only take you down for several days but also has the potential to take you out. It obviously has not yet found a friend in my immune system, and I don’t want to ever introduce them. Such a pas de deux, however, will be a rendezvous for about 5 percent of the American population this flu season.

Flu viruses are never the same, changing their composition every year, so that means you can get the respiratory infection more than once in your lifetime. Bill Wharton, a spokesperson for Public Health—Dayton and Montgomery County, says last year, the medical community wasn’t prepared for a specific mutated strain of the flu virus, so there was no prophylactic prepared for it. This year, for the 2015-16 season, protection against that mutation is included in the vaccine. The three strains that have the protective vaccines are the California, which guards against the 2009 H1N1 virus, the Victoria, that is connected to the 2011 H3N2 virus, and the Massachusetts, which offers protection against the 2012 influenza virus. Information from the PHDMC also lists a fourth vaccine, the Brisbane, which shields you from the bug prevalent in 2008.

Wharton also mentions that this month, there is already one reported case of the flu in the area: a patient at Dayton Children’s Hospital. Locally, PHDMC is one of the surrounding county health agencies that tracks the local flu bug season when hospital emergency departments submit the data. The Ohio Department of Health, based in Columbus, follows the state’s flu activity weekly all year, monitoring how the virus circulates. Medical professionals determine by symptoms whether the patient actually has the flu and not a common cold: a fever of 100 degrees or greater, moderate to severe fatigue, body and headaches, severe chills, a dry, hacking cough and extreme chest discomfort. Without medical attention, these complications from this highly contagious bug can be life-threatening, especially among the elderly, pregnant women, anyone with compromised health (patients with diabetes, cancer, heart disease and respiratory illnesses) and young children. These high-risk patients should be treated right away with prescription drugs if they contract influenza. Three of those drugs recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and the Food and Drug Administration are peramivir, zanamivir and oseltamivir.

To protect yourself and your family, the CDC recommends everyone six months and older should get the flu vaccine as soon as soon it becomes available—before flu season really gets underway. However, it’s never too late to be vaccinated. Try to stay away from anyone who is sick, and wash your hands as the first line of defense.

Despite popular belief, the flu shot is not responsible for giving you the flu. The injectable vaccines (the shots) are made from flu viruses that have been killed—and since that means they are inactive, they can’t give you the flu. Once you get the shot, antibodies develop that help give you the protection you need against the bug itself. There is also a nasal vaccine that is sprayed into your nostrils, so you have that choice, too.

If you get the flu, there are three golden rules to get better, according to a Kroger health magazine circulated among the supermarket’s customers. First, make sure you eat well because the body needs energy. Simple soups with clear broths work well when you’re fighting that nasty bug. Drink lots of fluids—water is your best choice, skip the caffeine laden beverages that dehydrate you. Get good sleep—as much as possible. If you are a follower of this column, you will always read that sleep is a great, natural medicine.

I have been fortunate, blessed, lucky—however you want to describe my ability to so far to avoid the flu—but even though I am not a betting woman, I belong to a couple of the risk categories and am worried my gambling may eventually hit a wall. This is not a chance I want to take, so I hope you will join me this season by rolling up your sleeve and taking the shot. The influenza vaccine is available at county health departments, most pharmacies and your doctor’s office.

Be well,

Marsha

Who should not get the flu vaccine: According to the CDC, babies younger than six months, anyone with Guillain-Barré syndrome or people who have allergies to the vaccine’s ingredients may need a doctor’s opinion before getting the vaccine.

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