Wednesday, November 09, 2011

It's flu season

So it’s flu season again. Runny noses, chills, fevers, sneezes, congestion, body aches. I’m looking over the list and putting checking them off, wrapping up in blankets and sipping on tea. It’s that time of year.

We all know what to do if you have the flu – get lots of rest, drink plenty of fluids (and sadly alcohol and caffeine don’t count and should even be avoided). You can try other things like hot baths or heating pads for muscle aches, gargling with warm salt water to ease a sore throat, or using vapour rubs or saline drops for a stuffy nose.
I usually avoid cold medications since these things typically mask the symptoms, leading you to believe you’re better than you actually are – thereby actually prolonging your sickness. But I did take a couple aspirin today for my sinus headache – and since I have some meetings tomorrow, will likely take a decongestant to get me through the day.

There are plenty of invitations around to get the flu shot. But in my experience, whether or not I have the shot doesn’t make much difference on whether or not I get sick. My likelihood of getting sick is much more related to the amount of stress and sleep deprivation I’m experiencing. I’m not making a statement against the flu shot here, just saying it hasn’t worked for me.

We do try to be pretty regular about hand washing – and I admit to having been a bit lax lately, for which I am perhaps now paying the price. But we do cover our mouths when we cough, sneeze into elbows, etc.

But I am also aware of what has been termed the “hygiene hypothesis”, the theory that the growing rate of allergies and asthma in younger populations is a result of children’s environments being too clean. The idea is that the presence of some germs allows a developing immune system to become robust, not overly sensitive to minor irritants like peanut proteins and dust. Call it tough love for an immune system. There are also those who argue that all of the antibacterial products so popular among consumers encourage superbugs –resistant strains of germs and bacteria.

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