This Year's Flu Is Going Viral!
A Closer Look into The Flu And Related Illnesses
By Veda Sripada
The virus strikes again! Catching a cold and getting sick can often seem like the end of the world, you’re stuck in an endless tunnel with barely any hope of ever getting better. Even if you feel well enough to drag yourself to work, you’ll be worrying about whether or not you’ll get everybody around you sick.
- How can we prevent spread of Flu?
- Why get a flu shot?
- Fallacies about antibiotics and dangers of their misuse
- How can I help myself?
- When should I see my doctor?
- Take Heart!
How Can We Prevent Spread Of Flu
It is important for patients to generally know how to prevent spread of viral illnesses, including what they can do at home, and also when to seek medical care. As we all know, perhaps too well, the common cold can last about 7-10 days with symptoms including coughing, sneezing, a sore throat, low grade fevers, and body aches. There are a myriad of viruses that can cause infections like this, but rhinoviruses are most prevalent in society. Infections spread through the air and close personal contact. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, to reduce your risk of getting a cold, you should wash your hands often with soap and water, and avoid touching your face with unwashed hands. Viruses that cause colds can enter your body this way and make you sick. Another preventive measure would be to disinfect frequently touched surfaces, including objects such as toys and doorknobs, which can harbor viruses and germs. Since children tend to get sick nearly twice as often as adults, these steps are especially important to help them stay healthy as well. Finally, the most obvious step, stay away from people who are sick. Sick people can spread viruses that cause the common cold through close contact with others. So even a simple handshake with your best buddy can transfer viruses that can get you sick!
Why Get A Flu Shot?
Some seasonal viruses, such as the flu, can have patients in a prevention rut. As we all know, the flu shot is readily available as a preemptive measure against the flu virus, but there remains the notion amidst many people that the flu shot will get you sick. After all, they contain parts of a virus, right? Although this is true, there is no need to fret. Influenza virus injectable (killed virus) vaccine will not cause you to become ill with the flu virus that it contains, which makes the chances of an actual infection almost nonexistent. However, you may have flu-like symptoms at any time during flu season that may be caused by other strains of influenza virus.. The benefits of being vaccinated far outweigh the chances of getting infected by a shot. In fact, if you don’t get vaccinated during flu season, you’re far more likely to catch the flu just being out and about than if you got vaccinated. A vaccine works by introducing a weakened form of the virus into the body, which then recognizes and marks it as an adversity, and destroys it. Your body is special because it has the ability to remember this virus in the vaccine as an enemy. Therefore, if you were to encounter it again somewhere, your body will be trained and fully equipped to fight it off because of the vaccine. So get out there and get your flu shot!
Fallacies About Antibiotics And The Dangers Of Their Misuse
Another common and potentially dangerous misconception many people have is that antibiotics can cure a cold. News flash: there is no cure for a cold. To feel better, you should get lots of rest and drink plenty of fluids. Taking antibiotics for a cold can actually do more harm than good, believe it or not. Antibiotics are meant to kill bacteria, not viruses, and thus cannot treat infections caused by viruses, including colds. If you take an antibiotic when you actually have a viral infection, the antibiotic is still attacking bacteria in your body— bacteria that are either beneficial or benign (not causing disease). This misused treatment can then promote antibiotic-resistant properties in harmless bacteria that can be shared with other bacteria, spreading to dangerous bacteria. This would cause that bacteria to be resistant to antibiotics, so if you were to have a bacterial infection in the future, antibiotics would not be able to help you! In addition, antibiotics can have adverse side effects such as nausea, heartburn, and diarrhea that could actually make you feel worse during a viral infection with zero beneficial effects from the drug itself.
How Can I Help Myself?
There are ways to help alleviate symptoms of the cold without resorting to misuse of antibiotics:
- If you have a stuffy nose, take a decongestant like Sudafed or inhale steam from a humidifier.
- If you have a fever and body aches, take a fever reducer/pain medicine like Tylenol or tis generic version Acetaminophen.
- If you have a sore throat, drink warm beverages or suck on a lozenge.
When Should I See My Doctor?
However there are times when you should go see a doctor. If your cold won't go away after 10 days, it might mean you have another infection in your body that needs treatment. Generally, a fever for an adult is a temperature over 100.4 degrees F. If you can’t keep anything down due to excessive vomiting, you might have to see a doctor to get IV fluids so you don’t get critically dehydrated. If your cough doesn’t seem to go away after a couple weeks, that might also be a sign of a more serious illness like mononucleosis or whooping cough. Don’t get scared, though! The vast majority of colds go away after 7-10 days.
In the end, the common cold is nothing to be scared of. It has to run its course, and yes, you will feel pretty awful during said course, but more often than not, it is harmless after it ends. There are plenty of things you can do to prevent viral illnesses, such as washing your hands, disinfecting surfaces you regularly come into contact with, and getting yourself vaccinated every year.