Almost Cold & Flu Season

I got flu, woo hoo.  In flipping September.  This is a major holy shit moment for me, because now I have to make a decision that I normally never even think about.  So here’s some cold and flu myths to help keep you healthy this winter.

  • Flu shots lose their effectiveness after about 3 months, which is why you get them every year.
  • Flu vaccinations do not normally cover every type of flu, just the most common ones for that year.  For instance, I got Influenza B.  My doc said there was already an outbreak of Influenza B at a care facility in town.  Makers of influenza vaccines have to “guess” in July & August what strains of influenza are going to be prevalent in any given year or else they wouldn’t get the Flu Vaccine made in time for flu season. So basically, if they didn’t guess a specific strain of Influenza B was going to be big that season, the flu vaccine may not protect against it.
  • Because flu shots are only effective for about 3 months the CDC normally recommends getting them in November, because flu season is December, January, and February.  If you get it in say September, then when flu season gets bad in February, your vaccine has lost of it’s effectiveness and you are susceptible to influenza.
  • When there are early outbreaks of flu, like there is this year, hospitals and clinics gear up for a particularly bad flu season, usually by ordering extra IV saline bags.  Because dehydration is very common with influenza infections.
  • Influenza and rhino sinusitis (common cold) are both viral infections.  This means that no amount of antibiotics are going to make them better.  As a matter of fact, treating viral infections with antibiotics can make other conditions such as strep throat, antibiotic resistant.
  • Being outside without a coat does not give you a cold or flu or anything else for that matter.  If you want to go without a coat, carry on.  Not wearing one isn’t going to make you sick.  The reason cold and flu are more prevalent during the winter months is that we are all cooped up indoors, passing and spreading our germs by breathing, not because it is cold outside.
  • Some types of influenza virus take 21 days to develop symptoms.  In a healthy adult, even generic strains of influenza can take extraordinary lengths of time to develop.  If you develop flu after getting your shot, it’s because you were exposed to someone who had flu before you got your shot.  You cannot get influenza from the influenza vaccine.  The vaccine contains dead partial bits of the influenza virus.  This means it might cause you to feel sick for a few days, as your body boosts production of antibodies against the influenza virus, but it definitely can’t give you flu.
  • Influenza kills more Americans annually than overdoses on opiates (including legal and illegal opiates).  In other words, you are more likely to die of influenza than Percocet, even if you are using Percocet recreationally.
  • One of the most common and significant complications of influenza is dehydration.  It is also one of the most fatal side effects.  Dehydration even among healthy adults can and does lead to influenza related deaths every year.  So if you get influenza, stay hydrated, if you start to experience side effects of dehydration, go to an ER.
  • I’m sure you’ve heard your mother or grandmother tell you to starve a fever and feed a cold.  Sorry to say, they were both wrong.  You shouldn’t force yourself to eat, but not eating can speed up the dehydration process when fighting influenza.  If you can eat, you should, and stick to foods that aren’t likely to upset your stomach, so skip the ice cream and grab some soup instead. Eating when you’re able can promote an increase in antibodies to fight the viral infection, speeding up recovery.
  • Drink 64 ounces of water a day… Or not.  Growing up, I had a friend whose mother was obsessed with her drinking at least 8 – 8 ounce glasses of water a day.  She even measured them out.  When she would get sick, her mother would tell her it was because she wasn’t drinking enough water.  So here’s the thing, water is in practically everything.  Even foods like oranges contain a ton of water, coffee, tea, Gatorade, and even soda are all more than 80% water.  Unless you just don’t drink or eat, you are probably getting close to 64 ounces of water a day, even if you aren’t chugging from an Evian bottle.  Also, the amount of caffeine in coffee, tea, and soda is not high enough for it to work like a strong diuretic.  So unless you are chugging alcoholic beverages or salt water (do not do this, just FYI), you are probably getting 64 ounces of fluid on a regular basis.  However, when sick with influenza or a rhino virus it doesn’t hurt to add a little more fluid to your regular intake.  But you don’t need to go crazy and measure it out unless you are experiencing the effects of dehydration or you have a mental compulsion to do so.  There is even something known as water intoxication that can be fatal if you drink too much water.
  • Here’s one of my pet peeves when it comes to influenza: soup.  Broth is basically flavored water folks.  Drinking a bowl of broth is like drinking a bowl of water.  The flavor in broth is the dissolved fats of whatever kind of broth it is and it is healthy.  I don’t particularly care for soup, but I’m weird, so I don’t count.  Last year a friend of mine developed Influenza A and refused to eat any soup, because soup is “high in fat”.  It’s not.  It doesn’t take much of anything to flavor water, it’s water.  And water soluble animal fats like used to make beef broth, are not particularly bad for you.  I wouldn’t suggest gnawing down on a beef short rib when you have flu or a severe cold, but you can drink broth made from said short rib without worrying about your waistline.
  • You need sleep.  You are contagious.  No one else wants your cooties.  These three things go together, because if you go to work with flu or a severe cold, you are not doing your body any favors, your up and about doesn’t boost your immune system, it makes it work harder, thereby extending the length of time you have severe symptoms.  And even if you aren’t running a fever, you are contagious.  You can spread most influenza viruses even if you are asymptomatic.  The CDC used to recommend 3 days after your symptoms have stopped as a grace period to finish getting all the germs out of the body.  The absolute best way to treat cold or flu is to sleep through it as much as possible.  Most people don’t realize how much they touch stuff, thereby spreading their cooties to the non-infected.  I am a prolific face toucher, I cough into the crook of my elbow, but when I have a headache, especially one related to feeling like crap, like now, I often massage my eyebrows, rub my eyes, rub my forehead, and massage my temples.  No amount of coughing into my elbow is going to stop me from spreading my cooties, because I can’t seem to get my hands away from my face.
  • Hand sanitizer is basically isopropyl alcohol in jelly form.  It does work to kill germs, but it also kills healthy skin cells and causes skin dehydration.  Give your hands a break, soap and warm water works just as well as hand sanitizer.  It doesn’t even have to be antibacterial soap.  And some research is showing that repeated use of hand sanitizer, can make us more susceptible to germs as we break down one of the most important organs we have to fight germs and viral infections, our skin.  So be good to your hands this winter and try to use soap and water more than hand sanitizer.

One thought on “Almost Cold & Flu Season

  1. This post got shuffled to the wrong folder, so I only now read it.

    This is great. I am always happy to see people promoting facts rather than urban myths.

    The two biggest items that stick in my craw are

    1 -people who “don’t get vaccinated (or any other item) because there are risks”. My response is always, Well guess what people, there are risks associated with not following that guideline. Areas where parents withhold MMR vaccines for their kids are often the epicenters of out breaks of measles, a potentially deadly disease. Have these people never heard of Helen Keller?

    2 the drink 64 ounces of water daily which you touched on. The article on which they base this had a last sentence that the normal diet and beverage consumption usually fulfilled the water need for the average person. So all that happens for these people is that they make many more trips to the restroom than necessary. At least this misconception is not hazardous.

    Thanks – I always look forward to your missives.


    Liked by 1 person

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