The Flu and You
I know it may seem strange to talk about flu in the middle of the summer, but oddly enough, now is exactly when you should begin considering the upcoming flu season. I assure you, that is what the experts are doing. They are studying the trends and flu types that are occurring in the southern hemisphere, which informs what may happen here in the next few months.
Similarly, we are just about to begin the new school year, at pre, elementary, middle, high and maybe most importantly, colleges across the country where mass gathering and closer living conditions among previously disparate folks will occur and potentially impact the upcoming flu season.
So let’s talk about flu.
Influenza is a viral illness that makes impacts the respiratory tract primarily, and can also include systemic effects like nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. It also makes you feel like you are dying, or maybe it just makes you you wish you were dead.
It is often confused with the cold, but here are some distinctions:
Flu often comes on faster – a person goes from feeling “okay” to “death’s door” in a short period of time.
The symptoms of flu are more severe.
Flu generally has a high fever, though that is not always the case.
Definitively, flu is conformed with lab tests
So what should you do?
First, get with your licensed, trained healthcare provider. What I am offering are guidelines and facts to help you have a more informed conversation with them, but medicine and medical care is a lot like buying tailored clothing. It is very individualized and so you will want to have that conversation.
According to the CDC, all persons above the age of 6 should be vaccinated.
Different flu shots are approved for different people (age groups, medical conditions, etc.)
There are different types of vaccines. The composition of the vaccine (the types of virus it prevents against) often are different depending on the expert anticipation of the “strain” of flu that is most likely.
Certain people are generally more likely to have complications associated with flu. These can be life threatening. This includes children, people 65 and older, pregnant women, and people with certain medical conditions.
How do I know if it is that serious?
The Emergency signs of flu are:
In children -
Fast breathing or trouble breathing
Bluish skin color
Not drinking enough fluids
Not waking up or not interacting
Being so irritable that the child does not want to be held
Flu-like symptoms improve but then return with fever and worse cough
Fever with a rash
In addition to the signs above, get medical help right away for any infant who has any of these signs:
Being unable to eat
Has trouble breathing
Has no tears when crying
Significantly fewer wet diapers than normal
In adults -
Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
Severe or persistent vomiting
Flu-like symptoms that improve but then return with fever and worse cough
So, you see how serious it can be. In short, talk to your healthcare provider, before flu season starts. Ask if you are in an “at risk” group for serious effects. Finally, ask if or which vaccine and prevention program is right for you. If you want to read more, check out the CDC website:
With your body in mind, Be Well.
Matthew Minson, M.D.