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We’ve talked about the flu in my last couple health tips, but let’s review before we discuss Tamiflu, the antiviral drug.
First, learn to differentiate a common cold from the flu. With a cold, most of the symptoms you feel are evidence that your body is trying to shed a virus that has invaded the moist membranes lining your respiratory system. This means nasal passages, sinuses, inner ears, throat, trachea (the cartilage you feel in your neck), and bronchial tubes. With a cold, the only area that actually hurts is your throat, and that’s usually where the infection starts. The virus spreads upward (sinuses, nostrils) and down (bronchial tubes) and your respiratory system, in its wisdom, produces lots of mucous to help it shed, and kill, the virus. With a cold, there’s rarely a fever, no muscle aches, and little fatigue. You just wonder how you could possibly generate all that mucous. As you drip everywhere, just remind yourself that it’s a good thing. Your body is doing its job.
The flu is nastier. It’s a bad cold plus body aches, headaches, fever, brain fog, and profound fatigue. Colds arrive sporadically, but the flu comes in an epidemic, spreading like a prairie fire. Work in a big office? Live in a dorm? On Monday, a few people are ill. By Friday, a third of the office is phoning in sick, and those who come to work simply spread it further.
Can you get the flu even though you’ve had a flu shot? Sadly, yes. The virus may have altered itself to trick the vaccine prepared for the expected epidemic (viruses are masters at changing to survive). However, having the vaccine in your system will give you a much milder case of flu than your no-flu-shot friends.
If you find yourself coming down with flu symptoms, contact your doctor for a prescription for the antiviral drug Tamiflu. WholeHealth Chicago patients can contact the office (ask for my assistant Liz) or send me an email. Even faster, have your pharmacy fax a prescription request for Tamiflu to us at 773-296-1131. (Obviously, this is available only to WholeHealthChicago patients.) You don’t have to make an appointment to see me, and, in fact, waiting for an appointment will make the Tamiflu less effective.
That’s because in order for Tamiflu to work effectively, you need to start it at the first sign of the flu–as soon as 12 hours after the onset of symptoms, if possible. Now that you’ve learned how to differentiate a cold from the flu, I’ll trust your self-diagnosis skills.
Before I make Tamiflu sound miraculous, understand its antiviral effects offer two benefits: reducing the severity of symptoms and shortening the course of the illness. Tamiflu doesn’t magically make flu go away. It just makes it easier to bear. By the way, if you misdiagnose yourself and take Tamiflu for a cold, nothing bad will happen. It simply won’t do anything.
In addition to the Tamiflu:
• Increase your intake of the immune stimulant Host Defense to two capsules daily.
• Take aspirin, Tylenol, or Advil (two every 4 to 6 hours) to reduce symptoms.
• Push fluids of all sorts. You drift into dehydration with a viral infection and will feel weaker just from that alone. In addition, staying hydrated with keep your mucous thinner and easier to cough out of your lungs or drain from your sinuses.
• Get some throat lozenges, decongestants (Olbas Tea is terrific!), mucous thinners (such as Bronchoril or Mucinex), and several cans of chicken soup.
• Rent a stackful of movies. Comedies are good. “Singin’ in the Rain” gets me through anything.
• Don’t go to work. Go to bed.
David Edelberg, MD