Someone recently asked me: “Why do they always seem to report on the news that ‘this is going to be the worst flu season in years?’“
It does seem like that has become a common theme over the years.
Though I could have bored him—and now you—with a lot of facts and figures, I prefer to take a more positive and productive approach. Let’s look at influenza—what it is and how to prevent it.
This week, I enlisted the help of Dr. Linda Lucombe, a highly respected member of our family practice team. A graduate of Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Jersey, Dr. Lucombe is board-certified in Family Medicine. She chose to specialize in family medicine due to the close bond she has with her immediate and extended family here in the United States and her native St. Lucia.
Dr. Lucombe, who has been with Physicians Regional for almost 10 years, takes the concept of family responsibility one step further by treating her patients as if they are members of her family.
Whether you’re talking to Dr. Lucombe’s patients or colleagues, you’re likely to hear descriptive words such as compassionate, comforting, and engaging, as well as professional and kind.
Now, let’s chat about flu—a word that is often misused to describe any number of ailments. A friend of mine uses the term “flu-ish” so often I suspect he’ll petition to add it to the dictionary one day.
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH.org), influenza, or flu, is a contagious respiratory infection caused by several flu viruses that infect the nose, throat, and lungs. People infected with the seasonal flu virus feel miserable with fever, chills, muscle aches, coughing, congestion, headache, and fatigue for a week or so. Most people who get the flu get better within two weeks, but some people may develop serious complications, such as pneumonia.
Pandemic influenza is when a new flu virus strain occurs that can spread easily from person-to-person, and the virus is one for which most people have no immunity.
Dr. Lucombe provides a more user-friendly approach: “The flu starts with cold-like symptoms such as sneezing, stuffy nose, sore throat, and cough, and is typically accompanied by severe body aches, high fever, and headache. These symptoms seem to last longer than what one would associate with the common cold.”
And then there’s the flu vaccine—or flu shot.
“The flu vaccine is made up of antibodies that provide protection against four different FLU viruses,” explains Dr. Lucombe. “These include the Influenza A (H1N1) virus, Influenza A (H3N2) virus, and two influenza B viruses. Flu risks are reduced by approximately 60% by taking the vaccine.”
Some other ways of preventing the flu are:
- Keep hands clean by washing with soap and using hand sanitizer.
- Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze.
- Don’t touch your face with unwashed hands—this is the easiest way for germs to enter the body.
- Stay home until your fever is gone for 24 hours without using fever-reducing medicine.
- Exercise—it boosts your immune system and speeds your recovery from illness.
- Eat healthy, balanced meals to strengthen your immune system.
Remember, influenza is the only respiratory virus preventable by vaccination.
As with anything medical, there will always be misinformation and age-old wives’ tales. This scenario leads to fear and—most importantly—keeps many patients from taking advantage of beneficial preventative treatments.
“Some of the patients I encounter are afraid of the vaccines. However, most of them get the vaccine.” Over the years, Dr. Lucombe has also heard a variety of reasons for NOT wanting a flu shot.
“Getting the flu vaccine does not mean you have a ZERO chance of getting the flu,” advises Dr.Lucombe. “The vaccine gives you a head start against the flu and greatly decreases your chance of getting the flu.”
Please remember, the flu can lead to pneumonia and even death in some patients—especially children, the elderly, the chronically ill, and people that are immunocompromised.
So please, get the flu shot. It’s worth it.
For more information, please visit physiciansregionalmedicalgroup.com. To schedule an appointment with one of our physicians, please call 239-348-4221.