Dealing With the Flu, the Healthy Angler Way
It’s November, 2009 and we are in the middle of what is being considered a horrible flu season. Not only are we dealing with the seasonal flu, but compounding things is the rise of the H1N1 (Swine Flu) virus. The exposure from local and national media discussing the ramifications of the influenza viruses on our communities is huge and ranges from the billions of dollars lost in the workplace to the hundreds of lives that are being lost as the result of these nasty viral bugs.
When it comes dealing with the flu, “being tough” is not necessarily the best approach. While rest and waiting out a cold almost always results in a favorable outcome, the flu can create an entirely different picture. Untreated cases of the flu can easily deteriorate into full-blown pneumonia which at best “rocks your world” and at worst can become fatal! Either way, I can tell you from personal experience after having a case of “double pneumonia” that its nothing to mess around with.
The flu knocked me down for the count!
Several years ago I began feeling really bad, something more than just the common cold. Not only was my throat sore and my nose runny, but I had body aches from top to bottom, and my skin and hair even hurt!! I had always been the type to recover from “bugs” really quickly, but this one kept getting worse and worse instead of better. Every day I’d wake up thinking that I felt better only to find that within hours I was completely exhausted. Within about 5 days, I was barely sleeping and began to experience difficulty breathing while lying down. All of this got to the point that I felt “trapped” in my body and that my lungs were failing me. I was panicked and literally broke down to my wife asking her for help (and I’m the doctor!). Prior to this final straw, I was “toughing it out”…big mistake!! Thankfully, my doctor lived in the same neighborhood as we did and she saw me that night when she got home from work. She listened to my lungs and immediately sent me out to get a course of very strong antibiotics that, after several days did the trick.
I share my story with you because even as a doctor, my initial thoughts and actions were incorrect given the nature of my condition. Many of you may have experienced a similar situation in which you should have taken a more definitive step in your own health but, due to your “toughness” decided not to. The problem with you and I thinking that way is that in a case of the flu gone bad, chronic and/or permanent consequences can result affecting multiple systems throughout the body for many weeks, months or even years to come. Again, the flu is nothing to mess around with! So if you get the flu, what should you do?
Steps to take if you get the flu:
1. Lay low: Going to work, to the gym, or even fishing when you have the flu is a very bad idea. Not only are you not getting any benefit or being productive when you feel horrible, but you are exposing everyone around you to the virus! The influenza virus spreads through contact between infected people via direct touch, touching common surfaces, or even through breathing “contaminated air”( when you cough or sneeze, bad things come out!). It’s bad enough when an otherwise healthy person gets sick from you; they just curse your name. Should a person with a compromised immune system or serious health condition catch your flu bug, it could put them in a potentially life threatening situation. When it comes to being active with the flu, go Anti-Nike…Just DON’T Do It!!
2. Drink lots of water: When you’re sick with the flu, there is a lot of sweating and other forms of water loss (vomiting and diarrhea come to mind). All of these things result in a loss of fluids which is very bad for the body and can lead to dehydration. I like to think of “drowning the bugs and putting out the fire” when I’m drinking water while sick. Look to consume at least ½ your body weight in ounces each day (ex. A 200lb. man would look to drink 100 oz. of water per day) and if you have been having a lot of vomiting or diarrhea, consider an electrolyte drink and (not instead of) water.
3. Avoid hard to process foods: Most people eat little to nothing when they get really sick, but sometimes people will crave things like sweets when sick. This may be in part because they are at home and consider things like sweets to be “comfort foods”. No matter the reason, the more processed a food is, the harder the body has to work to break it down. When you are sick, you want your body to focus on healing, not digestion! Focus on light foods like fruits and veggies and live juices when you are hungry.
4. Know when to see your doctor: If you have not turned the corner after a couple of days, get to the doctor! Don’t wait so long that the flu progresses and you get pneumonia or some other nasty complication, ESPECIALLY if you have any condition leaving you with compromised health.
It’s better to stay healthy than to get healthy!!
I’m sure that you, like me would rather avoid all of the hassles of getting the flu altogether, so let’s talk about what you can do to stay healthy this winter.
1. Repeat steps 2 and 3 above! Drinking lots of water, avoiding excess alcohol, eating light foods full of vitamins and nutrients and avoiding excess processed foods will allow your body to focus on health under all conditions. This means that you are more likely to avoid the flu altogether the healthier you are, and to deal with it more effectively should you get the bug.
2. Take basic nutritional supplements daily that are believed to enhance the immune system: There are many, many choices when it comes to “Seasonal Formulas” designed to enhance your immune system. Talk to your doctor (MD, Chiropractor, etc) and see if they have a product that they like or visit your local health food store.
3. Exercise Regularly: One of the many benefits of regular exercise is a strengthened immune system. Activities like walking, jogging, yoga, weight lifting, etc. all stimulate the body to perform better in every area, and it helps you be fit and look great too!
This winter, attend all of the fly fishing shows and expos that you can, eat and drink wisely, take your vitamins (just like Mom said), and exercise to stay healthy! Should you get the flu, remember to lay low, take it slow, and know when it’s time to go (to the doctor that is).