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The Holidays: Flu Season In Disguise?

"Enhance our knowledge about influenza with this updated guide for a worry-free holiday."
By: Joyce Anne F. Caraboc, RPhThe Holidays: Flu Season In Disguise?

A beautiful euphony of bells and voices only heard at this time of year filling the brightly lit streets every night – what’s not to love about the holiday season? The flu! 

Influenza is a viral infection which affects our respiratory system, that’s why it’s pretty common for people to mistake it with a common cold. 

Its symptoms are more intensive on the nose – stuffy nose and sneezing – while suffering from flu encompasses the whole respiratory system in combination with exhaustion and body aches. Common cold also develops slowly, contrasting the flu’s sudden onset. Both incidences are a nuisance to our daily activities but flu is much worse. This virus is already a bummer on its own so it doesn’t help that its prevalence falls on the most exciting season of the year. Something badly wants to share the holiday limelight, and we’ll show it in this particular feature!

WHEN IS FLU SEASON? 

Two words to appropriately associate with influenza are “cold” and “wet”.  While the virus spreads every year, the specific months may change from time to time, especially now that climate change has only gotten worse. However, according to an earlier statement from DOH USec. Eric Domingo, flu season typically starts in October, peaking in January to February when the temperature drops. 

AM I SUSCEPTIBLE TO FLU?

When a woman becomes pregnant, changes are inevitable – it is the body’s way of coping up and accommodating a growing fetus inside of it. These changes, particularly the ones in the immune system, heart, and lungs make them (including women up to two weeks postpartum) more prone to suffering from flu sickness. 

Age also plays a major role in recognizing one’s susceptibility to the virus. No one is born with a perfect immune system. Throughout our lives, we get varying types of vaccine shots and our body develops its adaptability to stimuli surrounding it. As time passes by, our body’s defense mechanism diminishes that’s why adults, particularly the ages 65 and older, are at high risk of contracting influenza. The same can be said for children five years old and younger.

People suffering from specific medical conditions also have a high chance of getting sick with the flu:

  • Asthma
  • Neurological or neurodevelopmental disease (e.g. cerebral palsy, epilepsy, muscular dystrophy)
  • Heart disease and stroke (e.g. congestive heart failure, coronary artery disease)
  • Chronic lung disease (e.g. COPD, cystic fibrosis)
  • Blood disorders (e.g. sickle cell anemia)
  • Kidney and liver diseases
  • Obesity (BMI ≥40)
  • Diabetes
  • Cancer
  • HIV/AIDS
  • People younger than 19 years old on long-term aspirin
  • Therapy

IS THERE ANY WAY TO PREVENT OR TREAT FLU?

Over the years, numerous preventive methods have been developed to cope with flu cases. Some of these are still observed and practiced today such as covering one’s nose or mouth when sneezing or coughing with a clean cloth or tissue. Minimize touching your eyes, nose, or mouth repeatedly for these can serve as pathways for germs to enter and invade our bodies. Avoid close contact with anyone who’s sick and the golden rule of cleanliness – wash your hands with soap and clean water thoroughly. If soap and water are not available for use, opt for a 70% isopropyl alcohol. Flu vaccine by far is the most effective method of prevention in getting ill with the virus. Influenza Types A, B, C, and D (particularly Type A) constantly changes, hence flu vaccines are also constantly modified. Moreover, a body’s immune response declines over time so it is recommended to get your flu shots every year before flu season starts.

It takes about two weeks post-vaccination for antibodies to develop and provide protection so it’s better to get vaccinated just before or early October (or whenever the cold and wet season starts). Getting your flu vaccine at an earlier period may result in decreased protection. Treatments have also evolved through the years of continuous scientific research and clinical studies. Doctors prescribe various antiviral medications to treat influenza. 

Let this season be both a time for flu awareness and gift-giving. Don’t let the holiday blues get your spirits down! Happy holidays! 

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