Today is day seven in the life of my flu. How do I know it’s the flu? Severe dehydration landed me in the emergency room where my nose was swabbed and the diagnosis was verified. In case you’re wondering, I did not receive a flu shot. I was tempted, especially when otherwise healthy people began suddenly dying. Unfortunately, I had a negative reaction to the flu vaccine in the past, so I am not a good candidate to have another. It’s worth noting that my husband did receive a flu shot, yet he now also has the flu — with the same symptoms and the same severity I have.
Because I’ve lived with fibromyalgia and a weakened immune system for most of my life, I’m no stranger to viruses like this year’s flu. In fact, I’m famous for being the first one to get sick and the last one to get well. But, I must admit to being disappointed I got sick this year anyway. After all, I made a valiant attempt to avoid it. I took all the necessary steps. Only one person I knew was sick this year, and I didn’t see her for an entire month before she became ill. The message here is that this virus is out there, hiding unseen everywhere. Avoiding it may be the most difficult, most important challenge that you, as a person with a chronic illness, will face this year. I urge you to double up your efforts.
I’m sure we’re all steering clear of sick people whenever we can. The challenge is to determine who they are. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), people are contagious even before they exhibit symptoms. So, how can you know who to avoid?
We’ve all been schooled in strict hand cleanliness routines and the importance of not touching our eyes, nose, or mouth. Using alcohol sanitizers is a good idea when soap and water aren’t available. And this could be the time to go above and beyond when it comes to eating right, drinking more water, and getting enough sleep. Although there is no strong scientific evidence showing that ingesting a particular food or herb could be useful for flu prevention, we do have information about some nutrients that may be helpful with the treatment of symptoms and in maintaining a healthy immune system.
For example, adequate vitamin C has been shown to be helpful in maintaining a healthy immune system. This might be a good time to add a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice to your daily breakfast. A Japanese study said that extra vitamin D may be effective in reducing the incidence of influenza in school children. A little more daily sunshine couldn’t hurt. And another study said that probiotics improve flu symptoms in children ages 3 to 5. Maybe some yogurt for lunch? We also know that zinc deficiency is common in the elderly and that zinc is necessary for a healthy immune system. It couldn’t hurt to increase consumption of zinc-rich foods such as turkey, shellfish, beans, and nuts, especially if you’re over age 50.
If your prevention efforts are as unsuccessful as mine were, be sure to treat yourself kindly. Get lots of rest. Drink as many liquids as possible. This is an instance where food isn’t nearly as important as water. Remember that Tylenol (acetaminophen) is effective in lowering fever, reducing aches, and helping one feel better in general. Be sure to stay at home for at least 24 hours after your fever subsides — not that you’ll feel much like going anywhere anyway. The important thing is to prevent complications caused by doing too much, too soon. The complications can be more deadly than the flu.
One more thing: Be aware that the widely prescribed anti–viral medication Tamiflu has many side effects. Some are as serious or more so than having the flu itself. I was not the only person in the ER’s waiting room because of the therapy’s side effects. The difference was that the other people typically tolerated medications very well.
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