Sunday, January 26, 2014

Surviving The Flu Season-Keeping Healthy in Retirement

Every year, I have a flu shot. Actually, this year I had a pneumonia shot as well as a flu shot. Both are part of my normal routine.  My husband always had a flu shot. My sister has not had a flu shot in many years. She is basically un-insured, and allergic to mercury. Finding flu shots without mercury is  more difficult than one might think. (note that there is nothing wrong with having shots that include mercury unless you have an allergy to that item)

Two Mondays ago, my sister came home from work, hacking and miserable and announced flat out, that she was becoming ill. She spent the next two days in a coma on the couch (alternated between sounding like a sick seal) and another three days in bed, partially incoherent.  She has just recovered in the last few days.

 My college student is what I like to call a recovering asthmatic-meaning he had asthma from birth and then at about fourteen or fifteen stopped needing inhalers or having episodes.  The residual effect is that anytime he gets bronchitis or a cold, it can turn to pneumonia.  There are no mild cases.  He has gone into the emergency room as an adult announcing that "I have pneumonia in my left lung".  This time, he did not have pneumonia, but he did have a serious, down and dirty strain of type A Influence-the type that leaves a twenty four year old begging his parent to drive him to the doctor.  The doctor at the after hours medical clinic simply listened to him and sent us to the ER. Update: Just to be clear, my college student handles his own health and does so very well. He knows his body better than many doctors do in this area. The cry for transportation was because he knew he would hurt himself or someone else if he drove with a temperature that high. And, although prevention is a wonderful thing, most doctors will not give antibiotics until after bronchitis has officially been documented as something more. Its a conundrum).

Many hours later we were settled at home, with Tamiflu (dammed expensive stuff), an inhaler, antibiotics, and other medicines. Put simply (for those who may be unaware), the "real flu" is not a twenty four hour bug that then improves. That's more likely to be a cold and something you ate, frankly. The "real flu" gives you temperatures sky high, hacking coughs and congestion, possible pneumonia and the general feeling for at least thirty six hours that death might somehow be better. The real flu does not discriminate. You can be an athlete who drinks homemade juice every day and takes ten supplements. A virus is still a virus. While those with lower immune systems are more at risk, the flu visits whom it will visit. Fifty people have died in Dallas so far this year.

I have not as yet had the flu, other than a sniffle. This is not to say that I will not get sick. A flu shot is not a guarantee. What that little shot does do, however, is increase the odds in my favor. By a huge percentage. In general, I don't dispense medical advice, and certainly others need to make their own choices. Unfortunately, there are so much misinformation about that little shot, that I am sometimes amazed. The flu shot does not make you sick (unless you have allergies to mercury). It does not weaken your immune system. It does not make influenza strains stronger. Obviously, it is the middle of flu season and most readers have made their choice.  Still, it's worth thinking about in terms of future health. I will not be missing one again.

That said, flu season is still in high form. As I am also on a quest to remain healthy  overall and avoid cold and injury I've embarked on a few lifestyle changes. For me these include going outside even in the coldest weather, upping my amount of orange juice despite the sugar intake, increasing my tea intake especially green tea, adding multivitamins to the mix, and washing my hands much more often than normal (most importantly).

I'm also doing some research on holistic methods of arthritis treatments (not throwing out modern medicine as such) including the benefits of knee massage, aromatherapy, herbs and alternative exercise.  But all that is for another time.

How are you keeping healthy this winter season?

14 comments:

  1. As an older asthmatic, I would never consider not having a flu shot. Feel for your son, but he has learned a valuable lesson - don't wait for meds when you feel it in your chest. I take very similar precautions as you with the addition of a sinus rinse. I also gargle at least morning and night with warm water. Very simple routine including almost compulsive hand washing. Stay healthy, and I look forward to others sharing their healthful hints.

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  2. Hi Andrea, thanks so much for stopping by!! Please come back often.

    I fully admit I don't rinse or gargle although perhaps I should (other than with Listerine). I know I don't wash my hands enough but I have frightening ly dry skin.

    I should have been more clean and clarified in the blog. My son handles his health very well. Most doctors in our experience will not give antibiotics until Bronchitis actually becomes pneumonia because they are afraid of over medication-even in emergency rooms. He has had pneumonia every year of his life and has known it was coming on every year. Fortunately he no longer has asthma.

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  3. Just curious why you're going outside more in the cold air. I get a flu shot every year and had my first pneumonia shot last year. Seems like the flu strains are getting uglier each year.

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    1. Hi Lori, thanks for coming by and please do so again.

      I'm a big believer that people need fresh air every single day. Period. I find that the indoor air gets stale and I need to be outside daily, couch potato that I am normally. Even in the cold weather. And cold air in Denver is not cold air in the east coast or the south. Who knew I would move from Dallas to Denver and have better winter weather this year. Also, frankly, we have two active dogs who must be walked every day. We dress appropriately for the weather.

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  4. I had terrible asthma until about age 20, and bronchitis is almost a constant in my life at this point in some form. I attribute being able to keep it at bay in large part to my cardio/lung strength.

    I did get a flu shot, and do my best to avoid anyone exhibiting signs, though my sister in law was just down with it here at our house, so I'm holding my breath. She didn't get a flu shot last year, but has vowed to get one now, ASAP.

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    1. He seems to get this once a year, and normally it is barometric in origin. this time it was definitely caught from his relative and I think he will get one next year for sure. We'll ask the doctor if it's too late. I was actually surprised they gave him an inhaler and spacer (which he discarded-the spacer part I mean. He knows how to get the stuff into his lung. I am glad your sister in law is better.

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  5. I get a flu shot every year. I haven't had the flu in 15 years or so. But I'm not around kids much. That may be why.

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  6. The drugs stores around where I live give flu shots for $25, insurance or not. Well worth the price.

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  7. Wow, thats a great price. I actually got mine from my doctor, so I'm unsure what the mini clinics charge. My insurance covers for people over sixty

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  8. Influenza is nothing to play around with especially as you get older and if you have other health problems. I always get my flu shot. I also eat a reasonably healthy diet and take a multivitamin. I haven't had the flu in 10+ years.

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    1. Fortunately I have no other health problems to speak of but you are right, I need to remember to take it every single year. No matter what.

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  9. Speaking as a retired healthcare professional I applaud you on an excellent article. I appreciate that you used facts, not emotion, to explain why folk should get the flu shot, why people with the flu don't need antibiotics, and essentially everything you said. Bravo! There is too much misinformation out there. I almost lost a healthy youngish co-worker to H1N1 the first year it came out. Now that the flu shot can help protect against that evil virus everyone needs to get vaccinated. There have been many deaths in our area also. Thanks so much.

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  10. Barb- a thought about arthritis. My cousin told me she stopped eating gluten and it helped her arthritis. I decided to give up sugar and gluten for a month and see if it helped. After 2 weeks, I do feel a difference. Giving up sugar is HARD, gluten less so. By the way, I want to clarify I do NOT have celiac, it just seemed worth a try and I think it has helped.

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  11. The flu is hitting young and middle age folks very hard in my state ... a majority of the deaths are in the 25-64 range, rather than in the elderly. And the scary part is that things go south very quickly.

    I resisted getting a flu shot for many years, but am now a convert. Used to get a major upper respiratory infection or bronchitis every year ... not so much now..

    Flu shots are $25-$40 here ... I'm fortunate that my insurance will cover the cost.

    Hope your sister can find a non-mercury vaccine at a reasonable cost ...

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