"I feel like I got hit by a truck"

Right. It bears repeating. If you hear someone utter, “I feel like I got hit by a truck, bus, plane, or any other large-sized vehicle or object,” do not allow their words fall on deaf or dawdling ears. Seek medical attention, and immediately! And in case your idea of immediately differs than mine, let me just clarify: get in the car and drive to a clinic within the hour. Don't hit the slopes, don't take your child to basketball practice, don't finish your Instagram post, don't even jump in the shower to freshen up.

As the flu season looms above our heads in anxious repose, awaiting the ripe moment to swoop down and peck at our routine comforts, let's be vigilant this season and fight back with all we've got! Harmony, let's kick the flu in the keister! Already, we've had H1N1--popularly called "Swine Flu" after the 2009 epidemic that killed 12,000+ individuals in the United States--take the lives of 8-yr old Felipe Gómez Alonzo and 26-yr old journalist Bre Payton. So just as Edward Petrossi says, "Woah, this is serious, don't do that, I have enough experience to handle you," let’s too handle the flu.

When it comes to the flu, there are still hundreds of competing myths and conspiracy theories. All I can do is relay my own experience. In 2009, I was a junior resident at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center and countless patients were admitted onto my service with respiratory symptoms. That year, I was heartbroken to see a 33-year old woman leave behind three children and a 50-year old man lose the battle also before the pandemic would be declared over. In less than 18 weeks, the Swine Flu wreaked devastation on modern society comparable to the medically archaic times of the 1918 pandemic, which had an estimated death toll of 50 million across the globe. So what are we to believe? That there are government containment programs attempting to control us through vaccination protocols, or what we see with our own eyes--the death and destruction left by influenza year after year? Despite my seeming sarcasm, I do believe it is difficult to trust another sometimes, but in my case, let me tell you that I always get vaccinated early on and make sure my family does too.

Harmony, you have to decide for yourself which way you lean, but as we await this year's flu season, let me share my top ten suggestions to minimize its impact on our community:

  1. When it comes to the flu, Time is Money! Like MILLIONS. Getting treated ASAP is the key to reduced viral spread within the body and increased chance of survival.
  2. Vaccinate, vaccinate, vaccinate! When it's winter and everyone is getting sick anyways, some people directly blame the flu vaccine for symptoms. Unless the flu vaccine has made you terribly ill in the past, I say get your shot ASAP. When 70% of the population gets vaccinated, we can prevent a pandemic--pure and simple. Ask your doctor's office if they still have vaccines available. (HHMD does!)
  3. Tamiflu is not Theraflu. The latter is available as an over-the-counter symptom control medication. The former is a powerful medication against the flu that must be prescribed by a clinician.
  4. Headache, body pain, fever, chills, sweats, cough, shortness of breath, sore throat, runny nose, fatigue, and malaise are the comprehensive panel of symptoms experienced by the flu-sufferer. These usually come on all-at-once. You may be enjoying yourself one moment and derailed by these symptoms the next. Guess what? You have flu!
  5. Progressive illness? Not likely to be flu. If your symptoms develop over 2-4 days, you are likely suffering from a flu-like illness and not the flu. You still need medical attention, and sooner than later, but I don't want thousands of people flocking clinics because of mild to moderate symptoms fearing for their lives. Card-carrying Influenza does not wait around to make you feel bad, it attacks with a mighty vengeance and knocks you off your feet.
  6. Can I get tested? With high sensitivity and specificity, there are tests that can definitively identify if one actually has the flu or not. The ER routinely runs these tests on any patient to determine if they have influenza. Because of good specificity, those who test negative are highly unlikely to have the flu. Ask your doctor's office if they have influenza testing also. (HHMD does!)
  7. Save a life! My general surgery attending at Chicago Medical School, Dr. Phillip Zaret, instilled this philosophy of care in all his residents. Here, I would encourage you to help your friends and family seek care immediately if you suspect they may be suffering from the flu. Share flu information with them and make sure they are vaccinated! We are all in this together.
  8. Boost your immunity. There are plenty of over-the-counter and through-the-grapevine solutions for helping fortify your body during times of illness. Chicken soup, garlic, lemon, ginger, honey, tea, zinc, selenium, and vitamin c are but a few of the home remedies that can be used on a daily basis to strengthen the fighter cells and components of our immune system. Ask your doctor's office if they have recommendations on vitamins and recovery solutions. (HHMD does!)
  9. Hydrate fool! Drink 8-12 cups of water daily to make sure your pipes are full and flowing. Let's not forget that the lymphatics require a hydration to function efficiently and effectively.
  10. Flu goes airborne. You will be shocked to find out that the way to prevent flu transmission in any room is to turn up the heat--to 85 degrees fahrenheit, specifically. That said, make sure to cover up and avoid airborne pathogens when out and about. If you are traveling, consider a face mask. Make sure to stay away from sneezers and slobberers.

Influenza virus is a rapidly mutating bug of mass destruction that has evaded human control for many decades, but there is some good news on the horizon as research institutions across the world work on generating vaccines that are more potent against this deadly critter. Currently, there are many strains of flu with varying severity. Ideally, we would create one vaccine to handicap the virus once and for all! In addition, there is a new line of medication approved for use against influenza by the FDA earlier this year, called Xofluza.

So you see, it's not all doom and gloom with this influenza expose. Let's band together, let's practice prevention, let's kick influenza arse...let's SAVE A LIFE!!!

-ea

Author
Dr. Emil Avanes Physician Director at Harmony Health MD

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