How to combat the Flu virus
It’s Flu Season and anywhere you turn, you’re bound to hear someone talking about the Influenza virus. With so many opinions and horror stories floating around like germs, how do you know who to trust? Thankfully, I was able to chat with Dr. Nathelia Barnes, DHSc, MSc, a health scientist, who was eager to help set the record straight. Here’s what I’ve learned:
1. No one wants to be caught with their pants down, which is why like most things, you need to prepare. First things first. The best way to ward off icky flu germs is PREVENTION. Duh right? Except no one really thinks about it like that. So in the dead of winter when people start coughing and hacking a light comes on and some of us miraculously think, or get a prompt from the news and say to ourselves “Hhmmm, it’s time for me to get my flu shot”. And while you are on the right track, you’ve missed the mark, just ever so slightly. Fortunately for us, Dr. Barnes shared the secret sauce for prevention.
“Don’t wait till winter is in full-swing, start early. The Flu vaccine is available as early as September. The best time to get the flu shot is in September or October. Remember, you want to get your immune system ready before that bad boy FLU shows up trying to be petty.”
People, put a reminder on your calendar NOW, you’ll thank me later…By way of gifts. 🙂
2. Vaccinate as a family. I know, I know this one stirs big controversy. We hear stories about how you’re injected with the virus, its what’s killing people, you can’t trust doctors, it’s a scam”, the list goes on. And I’ll admit, I’ve had my reservations too. But here’s what Nathelia shared that helped put my mind at ease.
“Emotions like, ‘I don’t get the flu shot because it made me get the flu’; is scientifically impossible. The flu vaccine does not have live virus. In generic terms, it has enough viral particles to illicit a slight immune response so your immune cells will “know” what the virus is. So if you encounter the WHOLE virus your immune system isn’t like ‘SHIT! WHAT DO I DO?!’. Instead, your immune system is like, ‘Ah, I’ve tasted this ish before…I’m ready to come knock this ish out’. The moral to the story is, you can’t get flu from the flu vaccine… but the vaccine also doesn’t make you invisible to the real flu. It just makes your immune system stronger when you do encounter it.”
Let the jewels Dr. Barnes dropped about the Flu virus sink in, I’ll wait…
Now, what happens if you didn’t get vaccinated early, didn’t include your family in the process or despite your superhero qualities you still couldn’t dodge the virus and one of you now has symptoms?
3. Don’t wait. At the first sign of flu symptoms, head to your primary doctor. I repeat, at the first sign of flu symptoms head to see your doctor. Notice I did not say the Emergency Room. You’d think that’s the most logical progression if you think you have the flu right? Well, if you’re like me with a husband that travels, your kid entourage is always in tow. Here’s something to consider, taking them to the ER only exposes your uninfected precious cargo to an unimaginable amount of Flu germs. I equate it to soaking in a hot tub of Flu virus. So do yourself and your family a favor, avoid the ER IF POSSIBLE (only if possible, sometimes it’s not a viable option).
4. Take the damn TAMIFLU! If you’ve followed step three and your doctor prescribed Tamiflu, for god-sakes take the damn Tamaflu…IMMEDIATELY! Nathelia explains why,
“Tamiflu is typically not helpful if you are beyond 48 hrs of the start of illness. Typically if it’s been longer than that, they will tell you ‘the antivirals will likely not help much’. No need to prescribe antivirals if they’d be less effective, that would lend to more antiviral resistance in the virus. If the Flu virus is caught early, “Tamiflu is effective against both Flu A and Flu B. To know the subtype the doctor would need to order an actual subtype test for your sample which takes about 2 days to get the results back from the lab “
5. Wash your hands. Make sure your children wash their hands too…well and often. Especially when on playdates. I know we all know this, but sometimes it’s the simple things that we lose sight of in our hectic day-to-day comings and goings.
If you’re wondering what our resident flu specialist thinks about not getting vaccinated, don’t worry we’ve got you covered.
“If you make a personal decision to not get vaccinated or take medications for whatever reason, that’s totally fine. Just understand the real science,Don’t base your understanding on what you’ve heard or what you “feel”. We are all responsible for empowering ourselves to know better so we can do better. And remember, there’s only so much medicine or science can do if you don’t want to use it.”
Special thanks to Nathelia Barnes for sharing her wealth of knowledge with us.
About Dr. Barnes
Dr. Nathelia Barnes, DHSc, MSc studied at Florida A&M University. She has over 18 years of experience as a Public Health Scientist and has worked in both private and public sectors to promote public health through biological science research diagnostic testing, health education and workforce development.