I’ll open with a confession: One of my annual fall complaints involves getting a flu shot. I’m one of those people who tends to get low-level flu-like symptoms after my shot, so I invariable set aside a day or so to not feel great afterwards.
That said, if I weren’t required to get a flu shot for work, this is the winter when I would have made sure to get one. It’s been a brutal influenza winter. Want proof? Here’s the CDC map from week before last:
It’s bad. It’s really bad. I have heard countless tales of woe from my MICU colleagues about how many flu patients are in their ICU, and many of them do not fit the profile of who you would normally expect to be critically ill from flu (younger, no chronic diseases); this is likely because the most common strain this year is H1N1. The common theme for almost all? No flu vaccine.
How can you prevent yourself from getting the flu?
Obviously, the first thing I’m going to tell you is…get your flu shot! I simply can’t emphasize that enough this year. If you are over 6 months of age, you need one (with exceedingly rare exceptions). If you want to see if you’re an exception, look here. The list of who should not get one is really, really short.
Other helpful tips for all of us? Wash your hands. Get rest. Eat well. Cover your nose and mouth with your sleeve when you sneeze or cough. In other words, do all of those things that your Mom always nagged you to do (she was right). Oh, and if you’re still smoking, the flu is another reason to quit.
How do I know if I’m getting the flu?
The video is far more efficient and effective than anything I can say.
Then what do I do about it?
First, be kind to those who work or go to school with you- STAY HOME!
Contact your physician. If it’s early in the course, treatment with antivirals can reduce the length of time you’ll be ill with the flu.
For a great review of preventing and controlling flu, this NEJM Perspective piece provides an excellent summary.