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A Firsthand Perspective: The Flu Is Nothing to Sneeze At

Oh, the achy, sniffling, sneezing, stuffy-head, and fever misery that is the flu. I had never had influenza. Sure, sometimes you have a cold that makes you wonder, Could this be flu? For me, there’s no mistaking the difference anymore.

I woke up on a Sunday morning and could barely get out of bed. I felt like I had been hit by a bus. That was on top of the 100-degree fever; runny, drippy nose; splitting headache that felt like a migraine; and barklike cough that made my skin tingle.

I thought that I might have bronchitis, but was quite surprised when the doctor said, “You have influenza A.”

Before you ask, the answer is yes, I had my flu shot back in October. The effectiveness of the flu shot varies from year to year, because there are multiple strains of the flu that spread each season, according to the Food and Drug Administration. Last year’s flu shot was one of the least effective we’ve ever had, with the highest U.S. influenza death toll in 40 years.

When you put that into perspective, my few days of misery are certainly not worth whining about. And my case was caught early enough for me to be prescribed the antiviral medication known as oseltamivir, sold under the brand name Tamiflu as well as in a generic version. (Yep, I’m cheap. I got the generic.) This medicine is supposed to shorten the duration and perhaps lessen the effects of the flu. Since this was my first time having the flu, I have no comparison — but frankly, I don’t ever want one.

Getting frank about flu testing

I also had the rapid flu test, which is a most unpleasant. They put a long swab up your nose that burns like mad. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says such rapid flu tests have a sensitivity range of 50 to 70 percent. That means that in up to half of influenza cases, the swab will be negative. By those odds, physicians using the rapid test as a basis for diagnosis might as well flip a coin.

So what does this mean for you? First, you should still have the flu test done if your doctor recommends it. However, don’t be shy if your test comes back negative and you still think you have the flu. Ask for the anti-viral medication or at least talk with your physician about it. Stopping flu in its tracks helps prevent you from becoming iller and spreading the virus to others.

Of course, the best thing to do is to prevent the flu. You can do that by getting your flu shot, avoiding people like me who are sick, and wash your hands often with soap and water. Also, don’t touch your face. My own personal advice: Do not touch doorknobs, handles of any sort, or elevator buttons. This is why God gave you elbows and sleeves.

On the mend

January 2019 was a rough one for me. It started out on New Year’s Eve with a sinus and ear infection. I got over that and promptly got a cold. I had just recovered from the cold when I got the flu. All of these illnesses hit me after the weekend. So, please, don’t take offense if I turn down Saturday night plans with you. I’m just trying to get healthy. I’ll see you in March.

Feel sick, but don’t want to leave the house? The providers at Methodist Family Health Centers and Medical Groups are now available seven days a week for fast, convenient care for more than 25 common conditions, including the flu. It’s care when and where you need it. To learn more, go to MethodistNow.Life.