You have a fever of 100 degrees and a runny nose, but you still manage to go to work. So you think you have the flu?
Nope. You don’t have the flu. Relax, it’s just a common cold.
The flu is – well, like getting hit by a Mack truck. Symptoms of flu include sudden onset of high fevers, body ache, sore throat and stuffy nose. Going to work or doing your daily activity is out of the question.
But suppose you did have the flu, what are your options? If you call your doctor within 48 hours of the start of your symptoms, she can prescribe you with oseltamivir or zanamavir. Ostamavir, Tamiflu, is a pill which can reduce the symptoms and help recovery by 1-2 days. Yet like any other medication it has side effects.
Last winter we visited my brother-in-law in Chicago who lay in bed sick with high fever and a dry cough. I diagnosed him as likely to have the flu, quarantined him to his bedroom and prescribed him Tamiflu. Within 6-12 hours he developed severe nausea and vomiting, which can occur in 10 percent of cases. To date he has forgiven me, but my wife hasn’t.
The second treatment option for the flu is zanamirvir, Relenza. This is a nasal spray that is equally effective, but should not be given to people with asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease because it can cause the airway to become smaller and lead to difficulty in breathing.
Other medications for the flu include amantadine and rimatadine, yet they are only effective for one strain of influenza.
One treatment that will not help you at the time you have the flu is a flu shot. It usually takes a few weeks to be effective so the window of opportunity for prevention through the vaccine is long gone by the time you have the symptoms of the flu.
The tougher part is how to associate with work collogues, family and friends when you have the flu. Flu is extremely contagious about 1 day before the onset of symptoms to 5-7 days after and even longer for children. So keep your distance. Throw flying kisses to your loved ones from a distance, wash your hands and cough while facing the other way. However, amantadine, rimantadine and ostamavir can be given for prevention to at risk persons when deemed appropriate by your physician.
As of this November, Tennessee joined the list of 11 other states where the influenza activity has reached wide spread levels. The virus strains are especially nasty, so first prevent by vaccination, and if unsuccessful, then treat early by medication, and if unsuccessful again, then just do not spread it.