My coworker has the flu… what do I do?

by Huntley in General / 02.09.09

565px-em_of_influenza_virusOne of our MBWHQ team members left here early Thursday when he started to feel under the weather. He woke up Friday morning to full-blown flu symptoms (complete with fever and chills and whatnot). ugh. Needless to say, he is not invited to come to work, but those in his room are none-to-happy about potential exposure to said yuckiness during the course of the day Thursday. So, the culmination of our research for you:

1. What are flu symptoms? How can I tell if I have the flu and not just a cold?

The flu is caused by the influenza virus - unfortunately, the influenza virus comes in lots of different strains, so it’s a tough sucker to try to eliminate. Flu symptoms can often feel like cold symptoms. However, according to WebMD, you generally feel flu symptoms sooner and they come on with much greater intensity. If you come down with the flu, you may feel week/fatigued for up to 2-3 weeks. You’ll also have muscle aches and chills/sweats as the fever comes and goes. You may also get a runny nose, headache and sore throat. WebMD also has a handy chart that shows you what symptoms generally indicate found here. My highlights are: fever is rare with a cold and generally characteristic of the flu (100-102 degrees F and lasting 3-4 days). Whereas a cold often gives you general aches and pains, the flu almost always does (and these are often severe). My one experience with the real flu was a doozy - our whole family was quarantined for Christmas after my sister, a pediatrician, brought the flu home as a special present that she shared with everyone in the house. She now brings us flu shots at Thanksgiving each year - sort of penance. I digress, though - the aches and pains were brutal. I’m usually pretty tough, but I was completely miserable and laid up barely able to move other than to curl up in a ball and sob…very fun to be around me, I’m sure.

2. Why do I care if it’s the flu and not just a cold?

Know that many people refer to colds as ‘the flu,’ but people are wrong about lots of things. The reason it’s important is that the flu can be particularly tough on people who are vulnerable or who have higher-vulnerability jobs (young, old, infirm, pregnant, childcare workers, healthcare workers, etc) and the flu is generally much longer lasting and unpleasant. The good news is that the flu can be treated (much better if you catch it early enough), whereas treatment for colds is usually just there to treat the symptoms while your body actually deals with the cold itself.

From a numbers standpoint, 200K people are hospitalized by the flu each year and 36K people die from it. So, yeah, you need to know your enemy before you plan your countermeasures.

3. Prevention800px-jtf-gtmo_trooper_getting_a_flu_shot_nov_2_2007

Flu shots - they hurt, and some people vehemently argue against their efficacy, but they do work. It won’t, however, keep you from getting colds. Hence, with the cold versus flu confusion, people often assume that the cold they happen to get after their flu shot is actually the fault of their flu shot. Flu season can start as early as October and run as late as May, so it’s best to get treated on the early end. If you got it last year, you still need to get it again each subsequent year. They change the formula each year based on scientific probability of the occurrence of different strains. They estimate that it is 70-90% effective in preventing the flu in health people under 65 years old.

Homeopathy - there’s no consensus among MDs on homeopathic treatments and prevention approaches, and there are plenty of people that swear by them. Hence, I figure it sure as heck can’t hurt - I’ll do just about anything and everything I can to prevent a repeat of the flu incident. Just thinking about it makes my body ache. Prevention is always key and can be accomplished by supporting your immune system with vitamin C, probiotics, sinus rinsing, and lots of rest. There is also a homeopathic alternative to the flu shot that is updated every year, just like the flu shot, and doesn’t require a needle. It is also safe for most of those people that can’t get a flu shot-the very young, very old, those allergic to eggs, etc.

Common Sense - wash your hands, don’t come to work if you’re sick (and if other sick people come to work, don’t go there), don’t hang out with your sick friends, etc. Basically, try to limit your exposure to the virus and try to wash your hands as frequently as you can so you can kill it before you manage to somehow ingest it. Common sense approaches are particularly important for those that are vulnerable or caretakers of someone that is vulnerable. If you cough or sneeze, wash your hands off. Don’t assume you don’t have the flu just because you don’t feel it. Bad news is that it takes some time after exposure for symptoms to show up. Hence, I’m staying away from Jason today since he may have been exposed even if he doesn’t know it yet…

4. I think I may have been exposed - what now?

On average, it will take 2 days after exposure/contraction for you to manifest flu symptoms. In the meantime, you may want to take some preemptive measures. If I worry I’m feeling sick (or may have contracted a cold or something of that ilk), I drink excessive amounts of water, take Emergen-C, use Zi-Cam (zinc supplement you rub inside your nose), was my hands obsessively or use copious amounts of hand sanitizer to avoid potentially passing some kind of grodiness along even before I know I have it for sure.

As soon as symptoms occur that *might* be flu, I go get a flu test. These aren’t cheap, but they’re worth it if you think there’s a good chance that you have the flu. This is the only real way to know you have the flu, and most flu treatments really need to be started as soon as possible (definitely within the first 48 hours of symptoms) to be effective. If the test is positive, the doctor can prescribe different things. In recent years, Tamiflu has been the drug of choice for treatment of the flu (and it works like a charm - during the Christmas incident, some of us caught it in time to take Tamiflu and others did not… you could easily tell which ones did). This year, it appears that Tamiflu isn’t working on the Flu A strain, but there is another medicine that does work (unfortunately, I don’t know the name of it).

Of course, there are also homeopathic treatments for your first flu symptoms, and also full-blown flu symptoms. If you can catch symptoms within the first 12-24 hours, you will have a better chance of lessening the impact of the flu. Oscilla is a highly recommended remedy to help stave off symptoms, as well as additional immune support and lots of rest. Check out the MindBites on homeopathic flu treatment for more info.

Good luck!

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