. Thursday, September 18, 2008
  • Agregar a Technorati
  • Agregar a
  • Agregar a DiggIt!
  • Agregar a Yahoo!
  • Agregar a Google
  • Agregar a Meneame
  • Agregar a Furl
  • Agregar a Reddit
  • Agregar a Magnolia
  • Agregar a Blinklist
  • Agregar a Blogmarks

On Tuesday, Mr. Hauck stayed home from work with a cough. On Wednesday, Ms. Krampus and Mr. Fiever called in sick. On Thursday, the secretarial staff stayed home, and on Friday, the once-bustling office was all but empty. Only the janitor remained, and he left early after posting a small sign on the front door: closed for Flu Season.

Indeed, empty offices and schoolrooms are familiar sights in winter months as the virulent, highly infections disease sweeps the country. Every year as many as one in four Americans gets influenza, commonly known as the flu. Among the elderly, the infirm and other high-risk groups, the infections rate may approach one in two.

Some years, influenza strikes worse than others. It’s the nature of the beast. In 1918, a supervirulent strain of flu killed about 21 million worldwide. During the winter of 1991–92, a flu epidemic jammed hospitals.

The federal Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta attributes some 15,000 deaths a year to flu–mostly among the elderly and chronically ill.

If you’re in otherwise good health, a brush with the flu is unlikely to have dire consequences. In the short run, however, it’s fever, chills, coughing and aches can make you feel like you’ve been hit by a truck.

Masters of Disguise

You say you had the flu last year, so you are now immune and can’t get it again. Ha! Wishful thinking. The flu virus is a sneaky devil, one that is “constantly changing,” says Steven R. Mostow, M.D., chief of medicine at Rose Medical Center and a professor of medicine at the University of Colorado School of Medicine in Denver.

Through a mechanism known as antigenic drift, flu viruses easily change their genetic structures, often many times a year. So even though you’ll eventually be immune to this year’s flu (if you get infected), you’ll still be susceptible to the next strain that comes along. There’s a new bug every year, any your immune system just can’t recognize them.

So there’s really no way you can avoid flu viruses during the flu season. Just about everyone, it’s seems, is hacking, coughing, sneezing and filling the air with what doctors call aerosolized microdroplets. “anyone who breathes the mist can contract influenza,” says Herbert Patrick, M.D., an assistant professor of medicine and Director of the Respiratory Care Department at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelpia.

Keeping the flu away

As a first line of defense, should try to stay away from coughers and sneezers. Next consider rendering the viruses impotent with an annual flu shot. Flu vaccines are made from inactivated (killed) viruses. Killed viruses won’t make you sick, but they will stimulate your immune system t make special proteins called antibodies, which will help protect you when you catch a lungful of someone else’s bug. Vaccines are effective some 70 to 80 percent of the time. But even when they don’t prevent flu, they can help reduce the severity of the symptoms, Dr. Patrick says.

In the past, flu vaccines often were scarce and were recommended (as they still are) for the elderly and for people with asthma, diabetes and other health problems. Today’s vaccines are more plentiful, and even healthy people can benefit from preventive medicine, says Dr. Mostow. Some doctors, including Dr. Mostow, are recommending an annual vaccination for everyone.

It takes about two weeks after you get the shot for your body to develop full immunity. So don’t wait until the flu’s already in town before you talk to your doctor. For maximum protection, you should get your shot between October 15 and November 15––before the flu season peaks.

Fighting back

While vaccines are great for prevention, they aren’t so good for treatment. In fact, they’re useless. A prescription drug called amantadine, however, not only can prevent flu but also can stop it cold once you have it, Dr. Mostow says. “Amantadine is to the flu virus what penicillin is to strep throat,” he says.

Amantadine works by preventing flu viruses from replicating. During an actual epidemic, it’s often given after immunization but before antibodies have had time to develop. It’s also given to people who are allergic to flu vaccines. Used to threat flu, amantadine can reduce by half the duration of the illness, Dr. Mostow says. However, it works best when it’s taken soon after symptoms appear. “you don’t want to wait two or three days to see how sick you’re going to get,” he says.

Amantadine can cause insomnia, irritability and other side effects, so it’s rarely prescribed for garden-variety flues, Dr. Mostow says. But for people who already are in poor health and for whom about with flu can be serious matter, the drug can be lifesaver.

Fighting at home

As long as you are in generally good health, a common flu should relent enough that you can go back to your normal activities within four to six days. To ease your aches, try the following.

Humidify the air. The flu will often leave your throat, nasal passages and lungs painfully dry and scratchy. Adding moisture to the air with a vaporizer can help keep your lungs lubed, Dr. Mostow says.

OTC relief. Drugs such as aspirin, ibuprofen and acetaminophen can help cool flu’s fever and can help ease your aches and pains as well. Doctors warn, however, that flu-stricken children should not be given aspirin, because it can increase their risk for Reye’s syndrome, a serious neurological condition. Aspirin substitutes offer the same relief without the risks.

Get your fill of R & R. the Rs stand for rest and more rest. This infection is sapping your strength. Your body needs to bolster its resources to recover, so plan on taking it easy for a few days (and don’t try any really strenuous exercise for at least a few weeks).

If you smoke, stop. Not only does cigarette smoke further irritate your lungs and airways, it also can make you more vulnerable to flu in the first place. And should you have the flu, smoking can make it more difficult for your body to fight off the flu virus and other germs that could potentially cause pneumonia.

Bring on the broth. According to some researches, chicken soup “is as effective as aspirin at relieving flu symptoms,” Dr. Mostow says. “Your grandma was right about that.” Chicken soup makes you feel better by helping to clear up congestion. And all liquids are helpful when your body is fighting a fever.


Custom Search