To every thing there is a season, and a time for every purpose under the heaven.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Flu Preparedness - The Practical Side

I have the flu. I should be sleeping right now, but I'm coughing like crazy and restless and shivering. This is day 5. I'm kicking myself now for not opting to take Tamiflu, but I was hoping that if I stayed completely in bed and took good care of myself, it would resolve quickly. Alas, it's going to run the full 7 days or more, I think. My daughter is well now, but she had it and it turned into pneumonia. Here's the real kicker. We both had the flu vaccine - and we had it several weeks before getting sick, so it did have time to be effective.

It's looking like it will be a bad flu year, so I'll distract myself from the misery to share some advice. First, do get the shot. Obviously, it's not a guarantee that you won't get the flu. There's a fair bit of controversy about how effective it really is. The claims range from not at all to 70-90%. The truth is probably somewhere in the middle. If it even provides a 20-30% chance of avoiding what I'm dealing with, it's well worth it.

I think there are a fair number of people who don't really understand what influenza is and that may contribute to their decision not to get the shot. It's not a stomach bug. It's also not just a very bad cold. It's not even close to being a cold. Almost universally, the flu includes a high fever (102 - 105), sometimes over an extended period, with headaches, body aches, chills, sweats, and general misery. Getting out of bed can be almost impossible. It can include a sore throat, runny nose, and a nasty cough. I have coughed until I pulled a muscle in my back, which makes continuing to cough just loads of fun. If the words "just shoot me now" aren't occurring to you almost hourly, it's not the flu.

Second, especially during flu season, do all of the common sense things you need to do to stay healthy. Get enough sleep, eat a healthy diet, get some exercise, and perhaps most importantly, keep your stress level under control. Why did I say "most importantly?" Because stress can actually negate your flu shot. That may very well explain why I got the flu.

This is pretty much where all of the "flu preparedness" web sites stop. Hmmm. Whoever writes those web sites has never had a fever of 103 with a daughter who had to be gotten to school, fed, provided with clean clothes and driven places, dogs that had to be cared for, and all while dad worked a 12-hour shift with an hour commute on each side, or worse was out of town on a business trip. There's quite a lot more to the practical side of flu preparedness!

From now on, I will be making a Hunker Down Kit every fall. Now, this is practical flu preparedness! Have you watched the TV shows where people make stockpiles of supplies to prepare for some future disaster? Most of those disasters are a lot less likely than the possibility that your family might get knocked down all at once by the flu or a stomach bug. It just so happened that this year, I coincidentally had a little stockpile of things from a recent couponing expedition, and it was a huge blessing that I didn't have to make a grocery run in those first few days! I had 2 boxes of crackers, cans of soup, a 2 week supply of dog and cat food, plenty of tissues, plenty of ibuprofen and cough medicine, a loaf of bread in the freezer, the kind of lunch and frozen b'fast items my daughter likes, and an adequate supply of toilet paper. I had my favorite tea and honey to sweeten it with. There were a few things I did need, though. I needed a new filter for the cold mist humidifier. It would have been good to have a few frozen crockpot meals that required no prep other than thawing. I had only 2 eggs. So, my preparedness plan will include a stockpile of non-perishable items as well as a plan to buy enough of basic perishables like yogurt and fruit to always have some in reserve as we rotate through. I'll also make sure I never completely use down my stockpile of crockpot freezer meals, which I had, sadly, just done.

When I get over the current bug, and get past Christmas, I'm going to create a Hunker Down kit to get us through the rest of the winter, and I'll write about it here, so stay tuned!

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