Flu Is Everywhere – What Should I Do?

Yes, we are at a full panic over the flu here in Texas. Doctor’s offices, hospitals, and pharmacies are packed with sick people. Now is a good time to discuss treatments and behaviors that may help you if you are in a similar situation. Let’s take a look at several questions and statements that we are hearing frequently, and what our response is.

“I have heard the flu shot doesn’t work this year.”

It’s true that the flu shot is less effective this year than in some previous years. This does not mean that it doesn’t work or won’t protect you at all. Getting a flu shot is still your best defense against the flu. It may protect you completely. The purpose of receiving the vaccine is to teach your body how to fight the flu. If you do contract a different strain your body should, in theory, be able to fight it better  than if you did not receive the vaccine. You may still get sick, but not as sick as you might have been. If you haven’t received your flu shot yet, it isn’t too late to do so. Think of it this way: if you train in a boxing gym for fitness purposes you would probably fare better if you were to get into a fistfight. You may still lose the fight, because you are training for fitness (not fighting), but you have developed skills that may help you.

“I can’t find Tamiflu anywhere.”

The yearly Tamiflu shortage is about to be upon us. Our wholesaler has been completely out most of this week and that trend will continue intermittently until the flu cases subside. Here is some good news. Tamiflu has a generic for the first time this year. The generic product is what is in short supply. The brand name drug is easier for pharmacies to get right now. Ask if the brand is available if you can’t find the generic. This will force you to put a monetary value on how bad you feel and how much you are willing to spend to speed up recovery. It may cost over $100 to get the brand name, or it might be just a regular co-pay. That all depends on your insurance. Tamiflu will not make you feel better instantly, but it should reduce the length of your illness.

Product shortages tend to cause an increase in demand. It is frustrating to see people try to hoard Tamiflu “just in case”. If you don’t have the flu, don’t ask your doctor to write you a script so you can keep a box at home. If you have been sick for 3 days already, it’s too late for Tamiflu to help you. Don’t bother. Let’s save the medicine for people who need it the most. Get your “just in case” supply in the summer when there is no shortage.

“What can I do to prevent getting the flu?”

This is an important topic during peak flu season. I do have a few tips for you. It is important to keep your body’s immune system healthy. You should do these things always, but they are even more important now. Get plenty of rest, stay hydrated, avoid stress as much as you can, eat healthy, and exercise. Wash your hands frequently. Hand sanitizer is good but soap and water is best. Try to stay away from sick people. Easier said than done, I know, but the less exposure you can get the better off you will be.

If you are looking for supplements there are a few you might try. Vitamin C and echinacea are thought to boost your immune system. Zinc may help when you feel a cold coming on. Zinc is found in some vitamins or in Cold-Eeze cough drops. I linked the product here because Cold-Eeze has used their brand name to market lots of different products and it can be confusing. This one is the zinc lozenge. Airborne makes some good products as well. I like this one when I need a boost to try to ward off a cold. It has all of the ingredients listed above.

“Where is the Oscillococcinum?”

Oscillococcinum is a homeopathic medicine marketed for relief of flu-like symptoms. Homeopathic medicines are made by taking an active ingredient and diluting it multiple times resulting in a finished product that may or may not even contain any of the initial ingredient due to dilution. Oscillococcinum contains a compound found in duck heart and liver. It is diluted to a 1:100 ratio and this process is repeated 200 times giving you the resulting concentration of “200CK”. It comes in little dissolvable pellets and is wildly popular for some reason. Good marketing and a cool name is all I can figure on this one. Maybe it is mind over matter (which I do believe in) or you could call it a “placebo effect”. The science does not add up on homeopathic products and I do not recommend this, or any other homeopathic product. However, we can’t keep it on our shelves and when I tell some people that it doesn’t have an active ingredient in it they look at me like I am a fool. One of us is a fool. Maybe it is me? Here is a link if you still want it and can’t find it locally.

“I have to be at work!”

I do admire your mindset that you need to get your work done or that your kids can’t afford to miss school. Sometimes it is true. I have certainly gone to work sick many times. If you have the flu, please stay home if at all possible. You need the rest and you don’t need to expose other people. If you must work, try to isolate yourself as much as possible. Cover your coughs and sneezes and wash your hands frequently. Get your work done and get out of there. If your kids are sick don’t send them to school. Kids don’t care about germs and protecting each other. Sending sick kids to school is bad for everyone, especially the sick kid. Also, if you do keep your child home, KEEP them home. Don’t take them to get their haircut or to eat at Chili’s. This kind of defeats the purpose of keeping them home in the first place.

This flu season will soon be over. Just be patient and follow my advice and hopefully you will stay healthy throughout. Let me know if you have any other questions or comments.

Be well.


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