To Your Health: You be ILI

[Welcome to To Your Health.  Our goal here is to create a space where we explore what’s important to people’s wellbeing, how we can live better, feel better and be healthier.  In sickness and in health, as the saying goes.  We’ll value facts over opinions and work to understand them, whether we like them or not.  So, let’s get started.]

You be ILI

It’s important to understand the seasons.  Starting in the fall, there’s football season, then the Christmas season, and then… FLU SEASON.  Happy flu season, everyone (or should I say, happy virus season, to be more inclusive?).  The flu of course, is short for influenza, and ILI is the term doctors use to measure the flu season.  It stands for Influenza Like Illness.  So, let’s get to the facts:

  • Flu season actually starts in the fall but peaks in the winter, anywhere from January to March;
  • As of last week, there have been an estimated 13 Million cases of ILI in the US since September, 2019
  • The best way to avoid the flu is to get the flu shot and the best way to insure a shorter, safer illness is also….to get the flu shot.  If you don’t believe in the flu shot,  don’t worry,  it still believes in you.
  • You may hear that this year the flu shot doesn’t exactly match the strain of flu which is going around.  It’s true, but it’s probably close enough to give some protection, so you’re still better off having gotten the flu shot.

Despite your best efforts (getting vaccinated, washing your hands, and avoiding exposure to people with upper respiratory symptoms), you may still get the flu.  How will you know and what will you do?

  • The flu isn’t a cold, and it’s not hard to know when you may have the flu.  Regular colds usually start with coughing, congestion, and sore throat.  These can be present with ILI, but
    • If you have sudden onset of fever, you may have the flu
    • If you have sudden onset of body aches, you may have the flu
    • If your hair hurts, your back hurts, and you feel like you’ve been hit by a truck, You. May. Have. The. Flu.
  • IF you have the flu, please know that there are medicines that treat influenza.  Just like antibiotics treat bacteria, there are medicines that kill the flu virus.  The trick is that these medicines work MUCH better if you get them within 24 hours of symptoms starting.  Call your doctor and get seen that first day.  It really matters.  If you’re having trouble getting seen, tell the doctor’s office that you may have the flu and it’s really important that you get seen today to get the best chance of the medicine working.
  • Finally, even though we’re having some fun here, please know if you, personally, are at risk of being harmed more by influenza.  People with lung diseases, immune system problems, kids under 1 and adults over 65, and pregnant women are at higher risk to get really sick from the flu.  If you fall in any of these categories, take good care to get vaccinated and know the symptoms of influenza.  Early treatment can save lives.

Until next time, here’s to your health.

The author is a Board Certified Family Physician who resides in the Shenandoah Valley.

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