Monday, January 20, 2014

Flu Season is Here: Preperation, Prevention and Treatment

     In case you haven't heard, it is flu season again.  With the number of flu related deaths on the rise, this season's flu has been declared an epidemic. It is affecting people between 18 and 64 the most severely, with 60% of hospitalizations for people with the flu being in this age range. So while the flu may not be at pandemic levels, and is likely not about to be a major worldwide disaster, it is still something to take seriously. So what are the risks, and what can we do to prepare and protect ourselves?


1.  Sanitation
     Make sure you have the materials you need to help prevent the spread of germs.  This means plenty of soap, hand sanitizers, and disinfecting wipes or sprays.  As long as you have the cleaning materials you need, you will be prepared to prevent the spread of germs around you, and hopefully to yourself as well.

2.  Vaccination and Medications
     Research vaccinations and know which one is the best for you and where you can get them.  Also understand the limits of a flu vaccination so you are prepared.
     Also make sure you have some over the counter medications ready in case you or someone in your family ends up with the flu.  Cough and fever medicines are easy to find over the counter medicines that can help treat the symptoms of the flu.

3.  Keep an Eye Out
     Follow the news.  Keep an eye on where the flu is, where it is spreading to, and how severe it is.  This will help you have a better idea of how to prevent yourself from getting the flu.  In the event that you do get the flu, it will give you a better idea of what your going to face, or others in your household will face, and how to react to it.


1. Vaccination

     Vaccinations is one of the best ways to help protect yourself against getting the flu. It is not a guarantee that you will not get the flu, however it does greatly reduce your chances of getting the flu.

     Now, once you get a flu vaccination it is important to keep in mind that vaccination does not work instantly. It takes about two weeks for your body to develop antibodies, so you still have to be especially careful in the first two weeks after getting the vaccine because you may not have the antibodies you need to protect against the flu yet.

     Flu vaccination is not guaranteed to protect you from getting the flu, because the vaccines put out are designed to protect against the most common viruses that will be present during the season. If you come into contact with a less common virus it may not match up to the vaccination as well, and therefore there is still the possibility that you can get sick.

     However, vaccination will greatly reduce your chances of getting ill during flu season, and thereby also helps prevent the spread of the flu itself.

2. Everyday Preventative Measures

     You know what I mean by this. Basic things such as washing your hands and disinfecting surfaces that could hold germs is perhaps the easiest way to help prevent getting the flu. If you can't wash your hands, then you can always use hand sanitizer as an alternative.

     Also, it is hard to do, but try to stop yourself from touching your face. If there are germs on your hands, this is how they are going to spread and infect you.

     These simple actions are especially important if you work in a highly public area such as retail, or if you take public transportation such as trains, buses, and subways.

3. Distance

     Try to avoid people who you know are sick with the flu. If you are around them, there is a much better chance that you will catch the flu from them. Of course this is not always possible, especially if someone in your house is sick, however if you can stay away from people who have the flu, then certainly do so.

4. Antivirals

     Now, I'm not saying you should start taking antivirals immediately and keep taking them all season. That would at the very least just be impractical. However, if you know you have been in contact with someone who has the flu, or if there is a member of your household who already has the flu, an antiviral might be a good way to help prevent the flu.

     Antiviral drugs are 70% to 90% effective at preventing the flu.  If they do not stop you from getting the flu, then at the very least they should help lessen the severity and length that you have the flu.

Getting the Flu

     Uh oh, it happened. Despite your best efforts you have come down with the flu. What now? Well first, don't panic. There is a flu epidemic underway, however that does not mean that everyone is dying from the flu.  In fact there are still very few people dying from the flu, and there is no reason you will be one of them. Most people who have the flu do not get severely sick, and do not need medical care or even antiviral drugs.

     Now we all know the symptoms of the flu, for completeness sake, most flu is accompanied by some or all of these symptoms:

-fever (note: not everyone who has the flu will have a fever)


-sore throat

-runny or stuffy nose

-body aches




-sometimes diarrhea and vomiting

     So you have the flu, what should you do?

1. Stay Home

     Do not go to work. Do not go to school.  Don't do it!  Stay home and focus on getting better. Going out when you have the flu will only make it harder for you to recover, and it will also expose the virus to other people as well.  When it comes to the flu, sharing is in fact not caring.  Staying home will make it easier for you to get better, and it will also help prevent the spread of the flu virus.

2. Fluids and Rest

     The most common prescription for being sick is to drink plenty of fluids, and get lots of rest. It is no different with the flu.
     You can also take over the counter medicines to help treat symptoms such as fever and cough medicines.

3. Antivirals

     As I said above, antivirals, in most cases, are not necessary for recovering from the flu. However, they could help you get better faster, and they can also help prevent serious complications.  Keep in mind however that antivirals are available by prescription only from your doctor and can not be found over the counter.

     However, there are a number of recipes that can be found for supposedly antiviral herbal teas. I cannot vouch for the reliability of these because I have not tried them.  I am also not a doctor so I can't say whether or not these will help, hurt or do nothing. 

     I can say that in recipes I have seen the ingredients are fairly common, and (baring any allergies of course) do not seem to have anything that would be dangerous to most people.  I provide these for information sake and it is up to your own discretion as to whether or not to use them. However for those interested I have provided a few links to some of these recipes and information on herbs that are considered antivirals:
-Potent Antiviral Tea

-The Best Teas for the Flu

-Cold and Flu Home Remedy

-Herbs for Colds and Flu

-Antiviral Herbs

     So, keep safe, warm and healthy everyone. It may not be the end of the world, but we should always be prepared for anything that life may throw at us, including the flu.


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