How to Fight the Flu with IBD
While getting “normal people sick” may be inevitable for many of us, here are a few pointers on the Flu. Why it’s so important to get the Flu vaccine every year, and how to prevent it from entering your system.
Anytime you have a pre-existing condition, you have to be more precautious than individuals without them. Vaccination of high-risk people is crucial to decrease the risk of severe flu. Who else is at high risk? Young children, pregnant women and people 65 and older are at a higher risk for serious flu complications. Doctors who manage chronic health conditions, such as IBD, recommend getting your flu shot every single year, in order to build immunity and lower the risk of serious complications.
According to the CDC, the “Take 3” Actions to fight flu illness are: 1) Vaccinate 2) Stop Germs and 3) Antivirals if your doctor prescribes them.
So how do we “Stop Germs”?
Hand-washing is the biggest factor in avoiding germs whether you have come into contact with the flu or if you are in prevention mode. Taking off shoes before you enter the house and changing into clean clothes when you get home is something I have personally done when getting home from work, the hospital or in a clinic potentially exposed to illness. I have even gone as far as spraying Lysol on the bottom of each of my pairs of shoes because… you don’t want to know the number of types of bacteria you can carry on the bottom of your shoes and track it wherever you go.
If you have been contaminated and are sick, avoid going out in public and infecting others. Flu-like symptoms may include: fever, sore throat, coughing, congestion and/or a runny nose, headache and you may also experience chills. You will almost definitely be fatigued and may also experience respiratory symptoms. If you must go out in public, wear a mask in all attempts to avoid getting others sick and keep hand sanitizer with you at all times. Remember, hand sanitizer should only be used in the event you are not able to wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water.
If you are exposed to the flu, like a family member, it is worth calling your doctor and telling them your situation; they may just prescribe you Tamiflu. The purpose of this antiviral is to shorten the lifetime of the flu virus you have been exposed to and lessen the overall effects to your system. Shortening the time you suffer from the flu is all you want, once you’ve been diagnosed with the flu. You’re absolutely miserable and all you want is a relief and to sleep. Speaking from experience this past winter, it was a very sorry two weeks of sickness and it took my body a very long time to recover, even with the antivirals. Antivirals work as the best treatment in the first two days of getting sick, but can still be started after the 2-day mark. As always, follow your doctor’s instructions when taking any medication.
If you do get sick
Many decongestants can bother the stomachs when you have IBD. If you know what works for you, this is great. But learning that your stomach doesn’t tolerate certain medications can be a painful lesson. Ask your doctor what kind of decongestants you might be able to take as you recover. Take time to rest. Don’t push yourself - or you’ll quickly find how much longer it will take you to fight off the virus and recover. Push as many fluids as possible.
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