We are in the midst of the flu season for 2012. Mike and I have fought both colds and flu this season already, so I’ve been doing some checking about what you can and should do to protect your family from the flu. Here’s what I could find out.
Although no one likes to get a shot, this is the only proven way to be protected against the most virulent and common flu virus for the year. Some people can use a flu nasal spray, but only your doctor can tell you if you qualify for the spray instead of the shot.
Flu vaccine is up-dated every year. So although you are immune to the virus in last year’s shot, that immunity won’t cover this year’s virus.
The flu shot does not cause you to get the flu since the virus is not live. If you were exposed around the time you took the shot though, you could still get it. There are a huge number of different flu viruses, so it is possible to get flu that wasn’t covered by the shot. You will have immunity to any flu in your flu shot or for any flu that you get.
It is not too late to get the shot. Until the last flu for the year has made its rounds in about May, you may still need the protection.
Colds vs Flu
Colds cannot morph into flu. They are caused by different viruses. Generally colds are milder and of shorter duration. Tests can be done in the first few days to determine if you have a cold or flu. If you have flu, there are some medications your doctor can prescribe to fight the flu. These meds do not work against colds. And antibiotics do not work against viruses, whether colds or flu. If you are running a fever, have yellow-green mucus, or some other severe symptoms, then antibiotics could fight the bacteria. But taking antibiotics when not needed helps bacteria mutate to drug-resistant strains.
Colds seldom lead to hospitalization. Flu, however, whether H1N1, seasonal, or some other flu can lead to hospitalization for complications.
Myths about how you catch colds or flu
Myth #1- You catch colds or flu by being chilled in cold weather.
You don’t get sick from getting chilled or being outside in the winter. Close proximity to someone with a cold or flu is how you get it. So staying indoors, touching others, breathing the air after someone has been coughing, and sneezing, and getting your hands near your face are the most common ways to get a cold or flu. Staying cooped up in air-con brings you into close proximity too.
Myth #2- If you have no fever you are not contagious.
With or without fevers, adults may infect others from one day prior to any symptoms through the fifth day of symptoms. Children may be contagious for longer than a week.
Myth #3- Stay away from sick people and you cannot get the flu.
Since people are contagious before they feel any symptoms and after they think they are getting better, it is virtually impossible to stay away from all contamination.
Myth #4- Dairy causes colds.
It may make phlegm thicker, but it actually soothes sore throats and provides calories when you don’t feel like eating. Note: Nasal inflammation after consuming dairy may be due to dairy allergy. If you or your child frequently have a runny nose, consider talking to your doctor about dairy allergy or intolerance.
Here are some things you can do to keep decrease exposure to flu or colds:
- Wash hands often. Alcohol wipes are convenient, but good old soap and water is still the best. Liquid antibacterial soap may be better than bar soap. But hand washing method is more important that which type of soap you use. So wet hands well, soap, rub all surfaces and rinse well, Consider using paper towels for drying hands. The bathroom hand towel may be easily contaminated when inadequately washed hands are dried on it.
- Learn to keep your hands away from your face. The most frequent route of infection is hand to eyes, nose, or mouth.
- Eat a good balanced diet with plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables. Yogurt daily will keep good bacteria ready to fight diseases.
- Don’t share drinking glasses. Disposable cups in the kitchen and bathroom help reduce cross contamination.
- Work out regularly to enhance your immune functions.
- Get adequate sleep.
- Wash toys often in warm, soapy water. Stair rails, telephones, counter tops and door knobs need frequent washing as well.
- Open the windows whenever weather permits to circulate fresh air.
Home treatments for colds or flu:
- At the first sign of a cold or flu, get extra sleep.
- Learn to sneeze or cough into the crook of your elbow. You will spread your germs to others much less this way since you usually touch people and objects with your hands not the inside of your elbow.
- Stay well hydrated. Drink, drink, drink!
- Dispose of all used tissues as soon as possible.
- Stay away from others as much as possible. Take care of yourself so you’ll be back on your feet as quickly as possible.
- Contact your doctor if your symptoms go from simple sniffles and mild aches to fever, chesty cough, vomiting, etc.
May you be healthy and happy in this season.