6 things you need to know to get through the flu season-update

When I first published this post, I didn’t know these same basic recommendations would also be helpful to fight a new and possibly deadlier infectious disease-COVID-19, caused by a different respiratory virus, the Coronavirus, which has spread all over the world beginning in December 2019 and now into the spring of 2020.

Influenza vs Coronavirus

When I first published this post, I didn’t know these same basic recommendations would also be helpful to fight a new and possibly deadlier infectious disease-COVID-19, caused by a different respiratory virus, the Coronavirus, which has spread all over the world beginning in December 2019 and now into the spring of 2020.

At this time, most of these points also seem to apply to COVID-19, except unfortunately, number 3; there is no vaccine and probably won’t be for many more months.

1. If you think you have the “flu”, you probably don’t.

To many people “the flu” is any respiratory illness characterized by  fever, cough, congestion, fatigue and aches. That term has become so nonspecific even we doctors use it that way. But flu should refer  to influenza,  one of many viruses that cause respiratory illness.

The other viral respiratory illnesses  are

  • rhinosinusitis, aka “colds”, upper respiratory infections-URIs,
  • bronchitis,
  • pharyngitis,
  • pneumonia.
The human respiratory system
The respiratory tract including the nose, sinuses, mouth, throat, trachea, bronchi in blue and the lungs (pink). Infections can involve the breathing organs from the nose all the way down to the lungs. (photo complimentary from Pixabay

2. If your doctor thinks you have “the flu”, you probably do.

Prior to the  “rapid flu” test, we doctors diagnosed influenza by the characteristic symptoms,  exam, and knowing there was an outbreak in the community. The test is helpful for confirmation but not 100 % accurate, and likely the Coronvirus test is not either.

3. The best way to prevent influenza is by vaccination.

The World Health Organization (WHO), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention(CDC) ,the National Foundation for Infectious Disease and  other reputable medical organizations recommend vaccination against influenza.

People refuse vaccination because they believe it is ineffective, unnecessary, dangerous, toxic, unnatural, subversive, and who knows what else.  I don’t think I or anyone else are going to change their minds.

My family and I always get vaccinations which have successfully protected us without side effects or adverse reactions. There are risks, just like there are with any medical procedure, or lots of other things we do in life. In this case we have decided the benefit outweighs the risk.

If you don’t want a “flu shot”, just say no. Your doctor doesn’t need or want to hear a speech; we’ve already heard them all.

4. Stay away from others if you are sick.

It’s not a coincidence that influenza outbreaks coincide with the American holiday season (approximately November through January). So to protect us all,

  • Stay home if you are sick, and ask your family, co-workers and employees to do the same.
  • Cover your nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing; use your sleeve, not your hand.
  • Keep your hands away from your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Wash your hands frequently, thoroughly, and long enough.
  • Wash frequently touched surfaces with disinfectant.
Hand hygiene saves lives.
a common sight now in public restrooms

5. If you do get sick, don’t ask your doctor for an antibiotic. It will not help. 

Antibiotics attack bacteria. Influenza and 99% of all respiratory illnesses are due to viruses.

There are antiviral drugs that will “shorten the duration and severity of symptoms” by 1-2 days, if started early. The effectiveness is uncertain for an illness that will resolve within 10-14 days regardless. But if it gets you back to school or work a day earlier, it may be worth the cost-they are not cheap drugs.

Otherwise, the treatment is“symptomatic” or “supportive” care:

  • Rest; eat and drink as normally as possible; extra fluids if running a fever 
  • Non-prescription cough/congestion /pain/fever meds

Acetaminophen for aches and fever

Lozenges for sore throat, cough, and congestion

Breathing moist air with the use of a humidifier  helps with cough and congestion

(the previous are affiliate links. )

6. You can die from influenza, but you probably won’t.

People die from complications of influenza, and infants, young children and the elderly have greatest risk.The most common fatal complication is bacterial pneumonia, infection in the lung. Influenza can also attack the nervous system causing brain inflammation (encephalitis and/or meningitis) and paralysis in the form of Guillain Barre syndrome .

an xray of healthy lungs with no signs of pneumonia.
Healthy lungs with no signs of pneumonia.

Persons with chronic illnesses like diabetes, lung disorders, depressed immune systems and cancer are at greater risk of complications and should always consult a physician if feeling ill. If you are not sure if you fall into that category, ask your doctor.

what you really need to know

We should all take influenza and COVID-19 seriously; consider my suggestions, talk to your personal doctor, keep up with recommendations from your local public health professionals, and do your part to keep your family and community well.

Here are some previous posts about infections .

Get Smart About Antibiotics

“Most common infections, such as colds, flu, most sore throats, bronchitis, and many sinus and ear infections, are caused by viruses and do not respond to antibiotic treatment. “

6 smart facts about antibiotics

“You may think of antibiotics as safe, harmless drugs with no potential for serious effects.  Usually antibiotics are well tolerated and safe. But serious side effects are possible, though infrequent.”

Sorting out sinusitis

“If you have a bacterial sinus infection with more than mild symptoms, an antibiotic may relieve symptoms and help you recover sooner. “

exploring the HEART of health

I would love for you to start following Watercress Words : use this form to get an email notification of new posts . Please find and follow me on Facebook, Pinterest and LinkedIn. Thanks so much.

                              Dr. Aletha 

Here are some affiliate links you may find helpful. Thanks for considering and using, which helps me fund this blog’s mission-to share the HEART of health.

World Vision – Sponsor A Child Today. Help give children a better future. Sponsor a child through World Vision and change a child's life and community for good.

What women doctors want you to know about healthcare

September is Women in Medicine Month, so in this post I’m introducing you to some women physicians who promote health in creative ways-writing, speaking, coaching, and advocating.

September is Women in Medicine Month, so in this post I’m introducing you to some women physicians who promote health in creative ways-writing, speaking, coaching, and advocating.

At Dr. Momma Says, Dr. Deborah Burton, pediatric ENT surgeon reviews her reasons for recommending vaccination.

“The growing antivaccination (anti-vax) movement has me confused.  I think it is a developed world thing to celebrate where we are, but we forget where we came from.

As an ENT surgeon who has studied and worked in the healthcare field for about 30 years, I have borne witness to the miracles that vaccines have done. There is no question in my mind that vaccines work.” She goes on to describe

MY AUTHENTIC 30 YEAR JOURNEY REVEALING SPECTACULAR WAYS THAT VACCINES WORK

Recommended Child and Adolescent Immunization Schedule
2019 Recommended Vaccinations for children and adolescents

Psychiatrist Dr. Melissa Welby writes

“Anxiety is a treatable condition. Depending on the intensity, some people can get better on their own and others need therapy and/or medications to help with anxiety. Either way, recovering from anxiety is possible! There are great self-help options available to assist with the treatment of anxiety which includes websites, apps, and books on overcoming anxiety.” Find her list at this post-

48 Resources to Overcome Anxiety for Adults and Children

From Charmaine Gregory, M.D., an ER doctor and fitness coach blogs at Fervently Fit with Charmaine with nutrition and fitness tips.

“Trips to the grocery store are almost as crucial as trips to work. We all need to eat. Some people have stress when they try and go in without a plan. Creating a routine is a good step. Following a few helpful hints can make your shopping easier on you.” Read her tips at

Quick Tips for Easier Grocery Shopping

a basket filled with fruits and vegetables
Will you commit to buying, preparing, and eating more fruits and vegetables? image from LIGHTSTOCK.COM, stock photo site, an affiliate

Dr. Aletha Maybank , a pediatrician, served as deputy commissioner for the New York City health department and now is the first chief health equity officer for the American Medical Association. She believes

Good Health Goes Beyond Having a Doctor and Insurance

“Health is created outside of the walls of the doctor’s office and at the hospital. What are patients’ jobs and employment like? The kind of education they have. Income. Their ability to build wealth. All of these are conditions that impact health. “

(And I’m thrilled that Dr. Maybank and I share our first name.)

The Frugal Physician, Dr. D. writes about finances, specifically how to live debt free. Her main audience is other physicians but she offers advice to patients too.

“Take note of the deductible for your plan and whether your employer chips in. High deductible plans can be alluring because of their low cost and the option to enroll in a Health Savings Account (HSA).  But, if you sign up for one of those, make sure you have the cash to spend the deductible during the year. ” Read the other 9 tips at this link-

10 Ways to Maximize your Doctor’s Visit

a woman in white coat with mask over mouth
Know your health history and medications.

Dr. Eileen Sprys is a family physician who wants you to know

When you have a cold, why I’m not giving you an antibiotic

“I want you to know that as a physician, I feel a pang of insecurity, guilt, and sadness when a patient tells me they’re upset because I won’t write an antibiotic.  I don’t want you to be sick or miserable.

I understand how inconvenient and sometimes life altering a cold can be. I desperately, desperately wish that I had a cure for your cold, but none of us do.

I also want you to know that for every antibiotic I over-prescribe, that I run the unnecessary risk of making someone even more sick, even to the point of hospitalization or death. I went into medicine to help you and to relieve your suffering with integrity — and that by giving you antibiotics without indication, I am betraying my own purpose.”

six-facts-graphic

Emergency medicine physician K. Kay Moody, M.D. wants you to know she is not a “provider” (and neither am I).

“Hi, my name is Dr Moody and I’m NOT a “provider.”

.

Here’s why your doctor isn’t your “provider”.

“The term “provider” levels distinctions and implies a uniformity of expertise and knowledge among health care professionals. The term diminishes those distinctions worthy of differentiation such as education, scope and range of ability.

Generic terminology implies an interchangeability of skills that is inappropriate and erroneous, as well as conferring legitimacy on the provision of health services by non-physician providers that are best performed by, or under the supervision of, physicians.”

position of the American Academy of Family Physicians

a nametag reading ALETHA OGLESBY, M.D.

Women physicians are sharing the HEART of health

I appreciate my female colleagues who share their knowledge and experience through writing in addition to caring for patients. I am honored to share their insights here.

I appreciate all of you who follow this blog; there are numerous other blogs to choose from so I am honored you chose to spend some time here. A special welcome to all my new followers from this past month.

I would love for you to start following Watercress Words : use this form to get an email notification of new posts . Please find and follow me on Facebook, Pinterest and LinkedIn. Thanks so much.

Dr. Aletha