Dr. Jacob Brayboy, M.D.
When I was in medical school one of my professors asked me, “How do you know if a patient has the flu?”. I nervously replied with a long list of signs and symptoms like “feeling really tired, fevers, sore throat, runny nose, body aches, chills”…and on, and on, and on. And though my professor nodded his head up and down to all my answers he chimed in very simply: “The patient feels like a truck backed over them, pulled forward, and backed over them again”. This uncomfortable image really stuck with me and is a relatively accurate depiction of how the flu can make a person feel downright terrible.
The flu (short for influenza) are a class of viruses that typically rear their ugly heads between the months of October to April. It is a major cause of illness all around the world, causing many missed school and work days. But it can also be deadly. According to the Centers for Disease Control, 85 children died from the flu during the 2015-16 flu season. An important thing to remember is that many of those deaths could have been prevented.
So how can we protect ourselves, our families, and each other from the flu? GET THE FLU SHOT! I can’t emphasize this enough. The vaccine is very safe and easy to get (once a year getting one shot into the arm in adults, in the leg in children). Though the shot is not 100% effective it decreases your risk of getting the flu significantly. I encounter many patients who are weary of getting the flu vaccine because of concern of it giving them the flu…THIS IS FALSE! The flu shot that is given by a needle into the arm/leg is an inactive virus and does not cause the flu. The most common side effects of the shot are pain, redness, and swelling at the injection site and this usually goes away in 1-2 days. Similarly, a small percentage of people can get a cold-like illness after getting the flu shot that lasts around 2 days. I tell my patients “I’d rather risk having a cold-like illness for 2 days than to have the flu for 2 weeks”. GET YOUR FLU SHOT!
Other ways to protect yourself from the flu are common sense but can’t be overstated. Covering your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze will decrease the spread of the flu. After sneezing and coughing, washing your hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer can help disinfect your hands and will help stop the spread of the flu as well. Try not to touch your eyes, nose, or mouth because these are common entry points for the flu to enter our body and wreak havoc.
Finally, but extremely important, is ensuring that your immune system is in tip-top shape. Your immune system (just like your heart) benefits from plenty of rest (7-8 hours a day for adults and 10 hours for school-aged children), eating a well-balanced diet, regular exercise (about 20 minutes every day of aerobic exercise exercise like brisk walking, an easy bike ride, etc), and cutting back on unhealthy habits like smoking and alcohol use.
How can we at Avance help you? We offer the flu shot at all of our locations. If you haven’t already had the flu shot, schedule an appointment to have this done as soon as possible. I also encourage you to meet with one of our wonderful dieticians to help you fine-tune your diet to keep your immune system healthy and happy. If you smoke, we can help you quit and if you feel like you drink too much alcohol we can help you cut back or quit. And if you think you have the flu we do offer flu testing as well as prescribe a medication called Tamiflu that is used to decrease the severity and length of time that you will have the flu.
Please don’t let the flu back over you like a big dump truck. We at Avance are thrilled to be your medical home this flu season. And if there’s anything we can do to help keep you healthy we are happy to help. Happy New Year!
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “CDC Says ‘Take 3’ Actions To Fight the Flu”. https://www.cdc.gov/flu/protect/preventing.htm
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Misconceptions About Seasonal Flu and Flu Vaccine”. https://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/qa/misconceptions.htm
American Family Physician. “ACIP Updates Influenza Vaccination Recommendations for 2016-2017”. October 15, 2016.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “How Much Sleep Do I Need”. https://www.cdc.gov/sleep/about_sleep/how_much_sleep.html