Protect Yourself from the Flu

Newsletter Nov.13 - sick from fluYou’ve rubbed your nose raw with a hundred tissues and still you can’t seem to breathe right. You’ve tried nearly everything to soothe your scratchy throat but you still cringe every time you have to swallow. Your head won’t stop pounding, and even the soft fabric of your shirt feels like sandpaper grating away on your back. You wish you could have avoided this somehow… well you can!

The flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by the influenza virus. Its symptoms, including a runny nose, sore throat, fever, chills and muscle aches, are similar to those of the common cold, but influenza symptoms are more severe.

People get infected when the flu virus comes into contact with their eyes, nose or mouth. These germs can be directly transferred from the mouth of an infected person talking, coughing, or sneezing in your close proximity, or from rubbing your eyes, nose or mouth after touching germ-laden surfaces, like doorknobs.

Once infected, healthy adults can infect others even before they realize they are sick. They can spread the flu up to 1 day before and 5-10 days after the symptoms appear. The infected adult usually suffers from a runny nose, sore throat, fever, chills and muscle aches for 1-2 weeks.

Treatment for the flu includes plenty of rest, and antipyretics like paracetamol or ibuprofen for muscle aches and fever, as well as lots of fluids, warm salt water gargles, lozenges, and other local analgesics for a sore throat. During the first 48 hours of illness, antiviral medications can be used to decrease the severity of symptoms, shorten the duration of illness and reduce the risk of serious complications, like pneumonia.

In Hungary, the flu season generally begins in November and can last until April. It tends to peak during the months of January and February.

Protect yourself

  • Wash your hands frequently. Take your time, 15-30 seconds and soap should do the trick.

  • Be particularly mindful of keeping your hands away from your face during flu season to decrease your chances of ingesting the virus. Studies show people typically touch their face 15 times an hour.

  • Try to avoid crowded, stuffy places, especially if those around you are ill.

  • Avoid cigarette smoke. It paralyzes the hairlike cells in your respiratory system that would otherwise sweep away incoming infectious germs.

  • Ensure that your Vitamin D levels are not depressed, because that can really affect your immune system. We get much less vitamin D during the winter months, and it is impossible to receive enough of it by mouth without taking a pill. The daily dose during winter for adults is: 1000-2000IU/d. Don’t compromise, consult your doctor about your Vitamin D needs and about participating in a vitamin D screening.

  • Your safest bet, however, is to receive this year’s flu shot, well before the season peaks. Receiving your flu shot by mid-December provides 90% protection from the A and B Influenza strains, and reduces the severity of the nature and duration of your symptoms if you still end up catching the flu.

Why should I get the flu shot?

Besides its debilitating and unpleasant symptoms, having the flu can lead to further complications, including bacterial pneumonia, ear or sinus infections, dehydration, worsening of chronic health conditions and even death. A flu vaccination will protect not just you, but helps protect the most vulnerable around you from illness (herd immunity). Therefore, it is vitally important to receive the flu shot if you are caring for, or are in frequent contact with: young children, elderly persons, or people suffering from chronic illness with impaired immune systems, especially if they cannot be candidates for receiving the flu vaccine.

Certain groups of people should definitely get the flu shot, particularly:

  • Adults and children with chronic heart or lung problems, or kidney, blood or immune system problems.

  • Diabetics

  • People over 60 years old

  • Pregnant women in their 2nd and 3rd trimester and women planning pregnancy

  • Family members of young children

  • Family members of anyone belonging to the above groups

If you are pregnant, have any kind of immunodeficiency, or have previously experienced mild or unclear allergic reactions to eggs, neomycin or formaldehyde, you should check with your doctor before receiving the flu shot.

The flu shot should not be administered to those that are suffering from:

  • A severe allergy to eggs, chicken, neomycin or formaldehyde

  • Fever or acute infectious disease

  • A history of a severe reaction to the flu shot in the past

  • A history of Guillain Barre Syndrome

I have received the flu shot last year. Why should I get it again?

There are several strains of the influenza virus. Every year new vaccines are produced based on the expected types of viruses. Also, the protective effects of the flu shot last 5-10 months. Your immune system cannot fully recall the type of inactive viruses you received in 2015, if at all.  If you thought it was a good idea to get it last year, there is no reason not to get it again this year.

Did you know you can act as a carrier and infect others around you, even if you never suffer from the symptoms of the flu yourself?

Want to keep yourself and your family safe? Get your Flu vaccines at FirstMed.

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