How To Protect Yourself During Cold and Flu Season
We are now in the thick of cold and flu season here in Virginia. It seems like every day I am hearing that more people are getting hit by colds and the dreaded flu virus. People with lung conditions are in what we call the “high risk” category when it comes to fighting viruses. What does it mean to be high risk? Well when physicians term a person to be high risk they mean you are more likely to suffer complications for getting sick than the average healthy individual. For instance, most normally healthy people can get rid of the flu within two weeks without having to take a load of antivirals or seek a doctor’s care. Essentially their immune system can recover in a reasonable amount of time after becoming ill. However, someone with a lung condition is highly likely to suffer complications (sometimes severe) if they are to become ill with a virus as serious as the flu. These complications that can occur as a result of the flu can include but aren’t limited to: sinus infections, ear infections, bronchitis, and pneumonia. These complications can lead to the possibility that it can worsen a chronic lung condition, cause hospitalization, or worse lead to death. You all know I like to keep my blog positive and uplifting but I also have to keep it “real” with you in telling you that I want you to be diligent about doing your best to protect your health during cold and flu season.
Here are some things that you can do to help avoid catching the flu or any other virus:
Get your flu shot. According to the CDC “An annual seasonal flu vaccine is the best way to help protect against the flu. Flu vaccines cause antibodies to develop in the body about 2 weeks after vaccination. These antibodies provide protection against infection with the viruses that are in the vaccine.” What happens is that the CDC does research and determines which 3 seasonal flu viruses are going to be popular during flu season. Then they make antibodies for them. Yes, it is still possible that you can get the flu even if you get the flu shot but, physicians believe that the effects of the flu may not be as bad if you have had your flu shot.
Avoid being around family and friends that are sick or have the flu. We all want be helpful to those that are sick but if you can avoid contact with people who have the flu you are doing yourself a service. Now as many of you know, I am a mom of 3 and sometimes my children get sick and (regardless of my germ phobia during flu season) I must take care of my kiddos. Those situations are unavoidable, but if grandkids and friends are sick with the flu, wait to visit or hang out when they are feeling better.
Don’t touch your eyes, nose, or mouth in public. The fastest way for you to become ill is to touch your face in public without washing your hands with soap and water first. Viruses love to invade your mucosa and get all warm and cozy only to invade your body with its terrible symptoms. Although not always effective, use hand sanitizer if you don’t have a sink nearby and must touch your face.
Wash your hands often. Use warm water and soap to clean your hands. Try and scrub your hands with the soap for at least 20 seconds. Get in between your fingers and underneath your nails where "bugs” can hide. Use a paper towel to turn off the faucet when you are done.
Keep it clean. Make sure you periodically clean surfaces in your home and at work that get touched often. Some examples of this are doorknobs, keyboards, and phones. Bacteria and viruses can live on these surfaces so making sure they are cleaned periodically can help to prevent the spread of colds, flu and other illnesses.
Consider herbal and other immune system boosting supplements BUT ASK YOUR DOCTOR FIRST. Many people will increase their intake of Vitamin C and Echinacea during cold and flu season to help boost their immune system. Some people swear by herbal teas and zinc for the prevention of colds but be careful of possible side effects like upset stomach. Remember just because a supplement can be all natural doesn’t mean that it is right for you to take or won’t interfere with other medications that you might be taking.
If you have a lung condition and you get the flu do the following:
1. Call your doctor immediately after you recognize the symptoms. Symptoms of the flu include: fever, muscle aches, chills, cough, headache, fatigue, nasal congestion, weakness, and a sore throat. Many times they will want you to start on an antiviral like Tamiflu even before they see you. The best way for antivirals to help you is early use of these medications. Once you get 48 hours into having the flu, they can be ineffective.
2. Drink plenty of fluids. It is common to get dehydrated when you have high temperatures. Choose water, juices, and soups to keep you hydrated.
3. Consider pain relievers like Tylenol and Advil to help you to manage you temperature and help relieve any muscle aches that you may have.
4. Get plenty of rest. Don’t try and keep up your daily routine and tasks. (This may seem obvious based on how you might feel.) Take naps as needed and rest your body as much as possible. You may feel more breathless with exertion and this is common and your body is using its energy to fight off the virus.
5. Stay home and avoid contact with other people except to get medical care and necessary items. If possible have a friend or loved one drop off groceries if you should need them. Once you have been fever free (without the use of pain relievers) for 24 hours, it is safe for you to have contact with others.
6. Wash your hands often to keep from spreading the flu to others.
Red flags that you need to go to the hospital
You can’t manage your breathlessness.
Your chest seems tight and you feel like you can’t take a deep breath in
Your oxygen saturations will not stay greater than or equal to 90%
If you develop chest pain
Confusion, dizziness, or inability to wake up
Swelling of the mouth and throat
You are not urinating
Thanks for Reading and Stay Healthy!
Remember: We are in this TOGETHER!
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