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Battling late-season influenza

Here we are in March, and influenza is still with us. Like many but not all Americans, I had my flu shot this year, and I highly recommend it to everyone unless your doctor says otherwise. (Certain allergies, immune deficient diseases, or other circumstances may dictate you should not have a shot.) However, despite taking that step, avoiding the coughing and sneezing brigade, and washing and disinfecting my hands after every greeting, I got the flu. 

How does one differentiate the flu from a mere cold? Colds are the most common human illness and are caused by rhinoviruses—“rhino” refers to your nose, which tends to turn a rather Rudolph-like red when you are so infected. The condition causes a mild, brief fever, coughing, and sneezing; and that red nose runs like a leaky faucet.

On the other hand, when the influenza virus takes up residence, a fever with chills and shivers, muscle aches, headache, and general cruddiness will set in. While other symptoms may intrude, one feels generally unwell. Given that the majority of folks reading this are men, in my opinion there is such a thing as “man flu.” Women are immunologically more robust than us so tend to get more moderate doses of the flu, but sadly, more nasty immune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, and systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE).  

If you feel symptoms like those described above, consider the following actions: 

  • Stay home. Sharing good news, cookies, and jokes is decent. Sharing germs? Daft.
  • See your doctor promptly. He or she can check you over and confirm if you have flu. If so, there are medications that might truncate the course of the disease.
  • Go to bed, feel sorry for yourself, drink chicken soup, and read my old columns. Or Rod Machado's, which are much more fun.
  • Drink lots of fluids—and I do subscribe to the hot toddy school of medicine. A small dose of rum mixed with tea and honey will, I am sure, be shown in future years to have magical powers.
  • Sleep lots.
  • Request lots of loving attention from your co-pilot if you have one, although they should maintain IFR-type separation to prevent cross-infection.  

And do not fly again until you are fully recovered. Finally, put a note in your logbook reminder section to get a flu shot next fall, and wash your hands after sneezing. Please!

Jonathan Sackier

Dr. Jonathan Sackier is an expert in aviation medical concerns and helps members with their needs through AOPA Pilot Protection Services.

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