Fun times, lying on the couch catching up on your soaps while the other half tentatively tiptoes around you fetching you chicken soup and tissues. Yuck! Nobody wants to be a snot ridden mess let’s face it, but the common cold and flu are pretty hard to avoid.
This year the flu strains doing the rounds are predominantly Influenza type A; specifically H3N2, and Influenza type B.
Sometimes I have patients come to me and say “Bloody hell Doc, I’ve just had the flu for 2 weeks and now I’ve got it again. How can that be?” Well this may answer that question, some people will contract both strains of Flu so even though their body has built up antibodies and resistance to one flu and they start to feel better, they get struck down by the second type.
So if you want to avoid feeling unwell and fluey, firstly if you know that your friend or relative or colleague has a flu, stay away (or better still tell them to go home and stay there), the virus can quickly spread through coughing, sneezing and saliva.
This time of year it is especially important to be meticulous with hand hygiene. Door handles are covered in bugs and you’d be surprised how many times people, you included touch your face and mouth in a day. So lots of extra hand washing. Catch the sneeze or cough in a tissue if you do have a cold or flu, and discard into the bin followed by washing your hands. Antibacterial and alcohol hand gels are great for keeping on top of hand hygiene on the go, and you can get small ones for in your car or bag or on your desk at work.
As well as the small everyday things, you can get vaccinated. It is just $10 to get vaccinated against the flu. And if you are elderly, pregnant or suffer a chronic medical condition then you should get it for free because it is so important that these patients get the vaccination due to the increased risk of becoming unwell. I often hear people say “why bother getting vaccinated? I hear you get the flu anyway?” well, yes the vaccine can’t protect 100% of people from contracting a flu but it can certainly help build up your resistance to the flu and lessen the symptoms. It can also help combat some of the health complications that the flu can create and reduce the risk of flu related hospitalisation and death.
Also please remember that antibiotics do not treat, lessen or combat the effects of the flu. The flu is a virus and taking antibiotics will make no difference to the time it takes for you to get better. If you have gotten better whilst taking antibiotics in the past it is because you were getting better anyway and probably started them when you were in the improving phase.
Now even if you follow all of the advice you can still get a flu, so remember rest and relaxation (I am sure you have a few games of thrones episodes to catch up on anyway, and that pile of ironing can wait!) plenty of fluids to stay hydrated (water and juice only), take over the counter decongestants and pain relief if necessary such as paracetamol (Always speak to a doctor or pharmacist before taking any medications) If your symptoms worsen, book a GP appointment and seek medical advice or call health direct. If it is an emergency always call 000.
You can track the flu stats across Australia on this website, it makes for interesting reading.
Until next time, rug up, keep clean, stay healthy.
Dr Michael Livingston