Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Health Care and the 2012 Flu Season

The Flu is a nasty bug, and it can make you very sick. To some segments of the population, the influenza can be deadly. Every year there are people who succumb to this health care malady. However, for most individuals who are attacked by the flu, you only feel like you want to die. Survival is a given, but you tend to be "sicker than a dog" while you have it.

Children especially can get very sick with the flu. According to pediatrician Dr. Vincent Ianelli, a lot of people have been wondering what happened to flu season this year. Some have begun to question if we would even have a real flu season. While people have gotten used to early flu seasons, it is important to remember that flu sometimes doesn't peak until February and March, and can then continue until April or May.

So is this year's flu season just a little late? The current flu report from the CDC gives several indications that flu activity is increasing and "further increases in activity are expected in the coming weeks," including that:

• Right now, the first state with widespread flu activity - California.
• The national percentage of respiratory specimens testing positive for flu has risen to above 10%.
• A second child has died from the flu already this year.

Fortunately, even as flu activity is about to rise, it is not too late to get a flu vaccine. See your pediatrician and get your kids protected for the rest of the flu season. flu symptoms can be severe and the flu is a bad virus. According to the CDC, the flu can 'cause mild to severe illness, and at times can lead to death.' In fact, 120 children died during the 2010-2011 flu season. Still, a lot of illnesses and symptoms get blamed on the flu, especially during the winter, that likely are caused by other viral illnesses or other conditions. If you consider that only 5 to 20 percent of people get the flu each year, and they typically get it just once, then every cough, cold, ache, pain, and fever, can't be caused by the flu.

About.com reports these typical Flu Symptoms:

Understanding what typical flu symptoms are in children can help you figure out if you or your child is sick with the flu. Flu symptoms usually include a sudden onset of:

--High fever, although not everyone with the flu has a fever
--Muscle aches and pains
--Weakness and tiredness
--Headache
--Dry cough
--Sore throat
--Stuffy or runny nose
--Plus, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea (least common flu symptoms)

Keep in mind that many other viral illness can cause cold or 'flu-like symptoms,' although flu symptoms are usually more intense than regular cold symptoms. However, sometimes the only way that you can tell the difference between a cold and the flu is by doing a flu test. This can be important because flu medicines, like Tamiflu, can help to decrease the severity of flu symptoms and help get better sooner. If you want more information, especially about flu and its impact on children, visit this website: http://pediatrics.about.com/b/2012/02/10/2012-flu-season-here-comes-the-flu.htm?nl=1.

According to the CDC, most people who get the flu will have mild illness, will not need medical care or antiviral drugs, and will recover in less than two weeks. Some people, however, are more likely to get flu complications that result in being hospitalized and occasionally result in death. Pneumonia, bronchitis, sinus infections and ear infections are examples of flu-related complications. The flu also can make chronic health problems worse. For example, people with asthma may experience asthma attacks while they have the flu, and people with chronic congestive heart failure may have worsening of this condition that is triggered by the flu. The list below includes the groups of people more likely to get flu-related complications if they get sick from influenza.

People at High Risk for Developing Flu-Related Complications:

• Children younger than 5, but especially children younger than 2 years old
• Adults 65 years of age and older
• Pregnant women
• Also, American Indians and Alaskan Natives seem to be at higher risk of flu complications.

People at high risk for catching the Flu are those who have medical conditions including:

• Asthma
• Neurological and neurodevelopmental conditions [including disorders of the brain, spinal cord, peripheral nerve, and muscle such as cerebral palsy, epilepsy (seizure disorders), stroke, intellectual disability (mental retardation), moderate to severe developmental delay, muscular dystrophy, or spinal cord injury].
• Chronic lung disease (such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease [COPD] and cystic fibrosis)
• Heart disease (such as congenital heart disease, congestive heart failure and coronary artery disease)
• Blood disorders (such as sickle cell disease)
• Endocrine disorders (such as diabetes mellitus)
• Kidney disorders
• Liver disorders
• Metabolic disorders (such as inherited metabolic disorders and mitochondrial disorders)
• Weakened immune system due to disease or medication (such as people with HIV or AIDS, or cancer, or those on chronic steroids)
• People younger than 19 years of age who are receiving long-term aspirin therapy
• People who are morbidly obese (Body Mass Index, or BMI, of 40 or greater).

Much more detailed information about the Flu can be found at this CDC site: http://www.cdc.gov/flu/index.htm . It would be good to spend time on this website to research any questions you have about the flu. There is plenty of detailed material about all aspects of influenza.

There are plenty of websites that talk about influenza, and even some about Bird Flu, Swine Flu, and other variations of this dreaded medical issue. However, here are simple things everyone can do to help prevent catching the flu can be summed up in these 10 easy steps:

1.) See your doctor and get a flu shot.
2.) Stay away from people who are sick with flu like symptoms or who have the flu.
3.) Stock up on TheraFlu from your pharmacy (http://www.theraflu.com/index.shtml)
4.) Drink lots of water...lots of water....lots and lots of water during flu season.
5.) Wash your hands a lot--A LOT!
6.) If you are into Holistic Medicine, find a good book or website and study up on naturopathic home remedies, and be preventive.
7.) Bundle up when you go outside in cold weather, even if it's just for a few minutes.
8.) Stay warm.
9.) Use common sense during flu season and be careful when you are in crowds or around others.
10.) If you get the flu, stay home til you are better; and stay away from others. DON'T SPREAD YOUR GERMS! Then disinfect everything you've touched when you are well.
 
The flu can make you really sick. Be careful. See your doctor if you think you are coming down with the symptoms. Use common sense when it comes to taking care of your health. Other than being significantly disruptive to your health and your lifestyle, you can survive the flu.
 
Until next time.

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