It’s a real bummer to get the flu. Not just a bad cold. I’m talking aching all over and high-fever running, can’t get out of the bed, full-blown flu. In other words it can kind of ruin your week. And if you’re a prepper? Forget it. You’re so sick you’re virtually useless during a disaster.
Now the shot prevents a lot of flus but not all of them. Bottom line: you can say you never get that nasty stuff, but you can’t say you never will.
I’ve put together a little just-in-case information on what to do for the flu if you get it. I’d advise you to read it now. Because you may not feel like it later.
1. Keep your immune system in tip-top shape. This is your best bet in fighting this bad bug once you get it. That means a balanced diet (the flu season is no time for crash dieting) and regular exercise—but don’t overdo it. Again, this is not time to try to meet your 2013 goal of going from a couch potato to a marathoner in one week. Get plenty of sleep and cut back on the stress (I can hear you laughing hilariously). I even have a post on how to do the latter.
2. Pick a preventer—or a remedy. I have a couple of posts on proven natural boosters to prevent or treat a cold. I also have a post on some common treatments that have proof they don’t work. Although the flu is a different story, they’re both viruses so I think these boosters are worth a try.
3. Having said that, try to determine if you actually have the flu or just a cold. Sometimes, without a flu test, that’s next to impossible, but with a typical cold you feel bad, maybe run a low-grade fever, and have muscle aches. You might have a cough and runny nose, may sneeze a lot. But with the flu, there’s usually no doubt. Your fever is higher and every symptom is worse. You feel like you just went ten rounds with a young Mike Tyson, and it becomes a chore to get out of the bed. Why should you differentiate? Glad you asked.
4. One reason is there are some prescription antiviral medications that can cut back on the severity and length of the flu symptoms (but not a cold). The meds aren’t perfect—they only cut the symptoms from, say, seven days to five. And if you’re going to take them, you need to start within forty-eight hours of the beginning of your symptoms, but they’re worth it to some people—especially if you have a chronic problem like heart disease, diabetes, or lung disease, to name a few.
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5. Another reason is, for goodness’ sake, stay home, away from others, and get well. You’re not doing yourself or anyone else any favors if you go to work and expose everyone to your flu germ. The flu is one gift that’s never appreciated.
6. Feel better. Try to ease your symptoms by drinking fluids (yes, chicken soup is good and is a proven virus fighter) and taking acetaminophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen (Motrin or Aleve), or naproxen (Aleve) as needed for the aching and fever. Take a decongestant if you’re stopped up, an antihistamine if you have a bad runny nose, a cough medicine (dextromethorphan or see my post on honey for cough) if needed. A humidifier might help also. (Don’t take aspirin if you think you have the flu. If you’re 18 years old or younger, it increases your risk of the potentially deadly Reye’s syndrome.)
7. Don’t risk it. You absolutely must go to the doctor if you’re more than a little short of breath, can’t keep fluids down, or start becoming confused. Headaches and a stiff neck are common symptoms of the flu, but if the headaches become excruciating or you have severe pain with moving your neck, go.
If you can’t get to a medical facility then you should at least know what to do for dehydration. (Really, though, with the severe headaches and neck pain, I’d be worried it’s not the flu but another serious problem like meningitis or encephalitis. Those are for future posts.)
8. Don’t risk it, part 2. One last thing to take into consideration is the flu often leads to a secondary infection. This is one of the reasons to take care of yourself with all of the above—to keep from getting one.
One typical scenario is that you start feeling better. Maybe even the fever is gone. Then, wham, you start feeling as bad as or worse than ever. In that case, get yourself to the doctor. You may be getting a secondary bacterial infection that needs antibiotics.
You name the infection and it can happen. For example, you may be getting pneumonia—with or without much of a cough. If you have relapse, see a doctor. If you can’t, you need to at least know what to do for that pneumonia, which is one of the most dangerous reasons for a relapse.
What about you? Have you ever had the full-blown flu? Any complications? What did you do?
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Photo by max_thinks_sees on Flickr.