Flu Season Ahead

“For  the LORD gives wisdom; from his mouth comes knowledge and understanding; he stores up sound wisdom for the upright; he is a shield to those who walk in integrity.”    Proverbs 2: 6, 7

While they say only two things are certain in life, death and taxes, I think we can add one more certainty: Flu Season! Influenza, commonly known as “the flu,” is caused by the influenza virus. It is spread when people who have flu germs cough, sneeze, or even speak, and propel the virus itself into the air. When someone inhales this airborne virus, they can then become infected and spread it to other people in the same way. Less frequently, a person may come into contact with the virus by touching a surface contaminated by flu germs, such as a door handle, and then touching their nose or mouth. This allows the virus to enter the body and multiply.

Symptoms will begin about two days after contact with the flu virus, unless a person has had a flu shot. The flu virus can be spread by an adult for a full day before he even experiences his first symptom, and he may continue to share the virus for three to seven days after the symptoms begin. Children can spread these germs for even longer! The symptoms come on suddenly, and may include: fever, headache, tiredness (possibly extreme), dry cough, sore throat, nasal congestion, and body aches. Most people will recover in one to two weeks, but on occasion, life threatening complications can occur. Generally, these serious problems affect people over 65 years of age, anyone with chronic health problems, and very young children.

Influenza is caused by a virus—antibiotics have no effect on it. The treatment for flu symptoms is the same as for a cold: rest, drink plenty of fluids, avoid alcohol and tobacco, and take over the counter medications to treat your symptoms. Do not give aspirin to children under 18 years old because of the danger of the rare, but serious, Reyes Syndrome. Motrin™ and Tylenol™ should be used to treat children. The term “stomach flu” is often heard, but symptoms of nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea are rarely caused by the influenza virus. This type of illness is caused by a bacteria or different type of virus, and cannot be prevented by the Flu vaccine.

According to the CDC (Center for Disease Control), there is an epidemic of influenza almost every year. The term epidemic is used because the illness affects between 10-20% of all people in the U.S., with an average of 36,000 deaths each year directly related to contracting the flu.

The only way to protect yourself from the flu is to get a flu shot before you contract the actual disease. Even after getting the flu vaccine, some people will get the flu. However, the symptoms will be very mild as compared to a regular bout of this nasty illness. Flu season varies from year to year, but generally ranges from late December through March. Contrary to popular belief, a flu shot cannot give you the flu. The vaccine is made from a killed flu virus, and a dead virus cannot cause illness. A nasal spray is now available, giving a weaken version of the live virus, and usually only given to healthy people 5-49 years of age.

The reason anyone wishing to avoid the flu needs to get a vaccine every year is that flu viruses are constantly changing. Therefore, the flu vaccine is changed from year to year to protect against the strains that are expected to cause the flu for that particular year.

It is recommended that the following people get a flu shot annually: people over 50 years of age, residents of nursing homes, anyone with a chronic heart or lung condition, diabetics, those with kidney disease or a weaken immune system, children between 6 months and 18 years of age who are on long term aspirin therapy, and women who will be more than three months pregnant during flu season. Also, health care workers and anyone living with a chronically ill person must protect themselves to safeguard those around them.

So protect yourself—it’s worth a shot!

www.cdc.gov/flu http://www.flufacts.com/index.jsp

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