Monday, January 7, 2013

A rant about the flu

For some reason (character flaw), the flu is something I get a little worked up about. Probably because I am so hard-core, pro-vaccinations. I think it is really important that people get vaccinated against the flu. And that is why I get that nails-on-chalk-board feeling when I hear people say they had the flu when, in my non-professional opinion, they totally did not have it. 
The word “flu” gets thrown around a lot this time of year. And the reason it matters is because this self/mis-diagnosis of “the flu” leads to the, “I got vaccinated and I still got the flu!” (which can totally happen; though it is way less likely that you will get the flu if you do get vaccinated. And that is why high vaccination rates are important.Herd immunity, people) Or worse, the “I got vaccinated and it made me get the flu” (which totally cannot happen. I even got in a respectful fight with a nurse about this at our agency’s flu shot program last year. It cannot. Even if you get the nasal mist. Come on, medical professional. Step up your game. I had to pull up the CDCs website on my phone for her.) So here is a quick guide to the flu.

What it is

It hits you suddenly. I've heard the expression, “hits you like a truck.” Like one moment you feel a little sick and the next you are flat on your back for a week. So if you felt a little run down on Friday, had the sniffles on Saturday, and felt really sick on Sunday. That is probably not the flu. A truck does not hit you slowly over the course of a weekend.

What it is not:  

It is not a cold. Even if that cold turns into a sinus infection. (and if it does turn into a sinus infection, just an fyi, antibiotics will likely not shorten the duration or severity of the infection and will likely give you the runs or something worse, e.g., an allergic reaction that puts you in the hospital. Plus, antibiotic resistance).

It is not a stomach bug. I know people sometimes say “stomach flu” and then shorten it to “flu” but that is not, technically, the flu. The flu does not generally cause stomach upset in adults (that symptom is more likely in children). While it can happen, it is not the main symptom. The flu is a respiratory disease (cough, sore throat, body aches, extreme fatigue, etc.) not a digestive system disease.

What it is: 
It can be really serious. Like really, really serious. And that is why vaccinations are so important.

What it is not: 

A good name for any illness, allergies, or general discomfort that occurs roughly between November and April.

What it is:

A virus that your doctor can usually diagnose. So if you go in when you first get symptoms, your doctor/nurse can do a flu test, positively diagnose you, and give you tamiflu (or not, whatevs). If your doctors says something like, “you are positive for Flu Type A” then, you have my blessing to tell people you got the flu. Otherwise, maybe consider the fact that you didn't actually have the flu. 



  1. My health peeve is people throw around the word migraine. Hint: If you are posting on Facebook about your migraine, it's probably not a migraine.

    Also, I didn't get my flu shot this year and I totally need to. I'm looking into it now!

  2. I was JUST talking about this with my boss. She got a migraine last week and went home but you could tell the rest of the week she still felt awful. I've never had a migraine, but you're right. Nobody I know who has actually had a migraine has ever told me the have one. I figure it either after the fact or by the quiet/dim/underthecovers clues.