How to protect yourself against Aussie Flu

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Over the past few weeks, the media has been reporting on the spread of Aussie Flu (H3N2) — a strain of influenza A. Experts now warn that Aussie Flu is more severe than the 2009 Swine Flu (H1N1)… However, we all know that H1N1 turned out to be a dud in terms of being a “pandemic”.

While I am always sceptical when these flu scares make headlines, this time I want to heed a warning: Aussie Flu is an aggressive strain and it can be life threatening, especially if your immunity is already compromised. I know this, because I suffered with it over the Christmas holidays. It’s an experience I don’t want to relive.

A-tishoo! A-tishoo! We all fall down

Another concern is that we need to protect ourselves against a double-whammy flu virus attack this year. That’s because the completely separate influenza B virus is also spreading fast. Usually just one type – either influenza A or B – is responsible for the majority of flu cases seen in one season.

As I already mentioned, some people are more predisposed to the flu including young children and babies, the elderly and pregnant women.

If you want to minimize your risk of infection, here’s what you can do:

  • Wash your hands on a continual basis, especially if you’ve been in public places like buses, trains and supermarkets.
  • Use a tissue for sneezing & coughing and dispose of it immediately. Wash your hands afterwards.
  • Avoid contact with anyone you suspect may have the flu (no hand shaking, kissing, hugging etc.).

Symptoms to look out for include:

  • Flu symptoms come on very quickly. Mine literally hit me while I was having dinner with friends in a restaurant, starting with severe muscle aches, shivering and a high fever. Within a few hours, I also suffered with a sore throat and a dry cough.
  • Headache is also very common and can last from a few hours to a few days.
  • Extreme fatigue and weakness (not being able to get out of bed).
  • In the case of the Aussie Flu, you may also develop diarrhoea.

The sudden onset of these symptoms means that you should isolate yourself. Stay at home and get bedrest. Drink plenty of fluids. Soothe your aching muscles and sore throat with lemon, ginger and honey steeped in hot water. You can relieve your headache with over-the-counter painkillers, but take these in moderation and don’t use them alongside other cold and flu remedies. And even though you’ll feel very weak, try to eat healthily — I steamed broccoli and ate it on a daily basis.

Most people see an improvement in their symptoms within a week to 10 days. If your symptoms don’t improve after about 7 days and get worse, then you could be at risk of developing pneumonia. The flu can also worsen existing conditions such as asthma, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) and heart failure.

Usually you don’t need to see a doctor when you suffer with the flu, unless you are in an at-risk group (like being pregnant), you are suffering with a chronic health condition such as a heart or lung condition, you are over the age of 65 and you have a compromised immune system.

Remember, flu is a virus and antibiotics cannot treat viruses. Antibiotics are only needed if you develop a complication like bacterial pneumonia. So, avoid taking antibiotics. Getting a flu vaccine while you have the flu also won’t help relieve your symptoms. Vaccines are only effective against certain flu strains and only have marginal benefits if you get vaccinated before you develop symptoms.



Disclaimer: Bear in mind the material contained in this article is provided for information purposes only. We are not addressing anyone’s personal situation. Please consult with your own physician before acting on any recommendations contained herein.

Sources:

‘Aussie flu’ is ‘more severe than the Swine flu’ pandemic of 2009, published online, dailymail.co.uk/health/article-5253873/Aussie-flu-severe-Swine-flu-expert-warns.html

FEELING UNDER THE WEATHER?, published online, undertheweather.ie

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