Dodging winter’s knockout punch

| December 12, 2008

Do you have ideas for this column? Call Carolyn Magner at (800) 633-5953, Ext. 1429 or e-mail her at this address.

If it’s cold outside, chances are you’re spending more time indoors with the windows closed. Confined spaces help keep you warm but are also a good environment for nasty flu viruses
to spread their misery.

Getting the flu is nothing to sneeze about, but there are ways to prevent it or lessen its impact.

Dennis Quinn, a trucker from Palmer, Iowa, has all the risk factors for the flu. He’s a smoker, a diabetic, is over 50 and has pulmonary issues. But he also has the number one weapon to ward off the flu – an annual shot, which he gets from the Veterans Administration. He has neither experienced side effects from the vaccine nor contracted the flu. “It’s the best defense against a potentially serious virus,” Quinn says.

Truckers with risk factors similar to Quinn’s should get a flu shot as soon as possible, says Pam Culliton, director of health and wellness services for Maryville University in St. Louis.

Other ways to prevent flu include: washing hands frequently; quitting smoking; avoiding crowded, smoky, closed areas; and practicing the healthy habits of exercise, balanced diet and adequate sleep.

If you catch the flu, early treatment with antiviral medications can reduce the duration by a day or two. Culliton says rest is imperative, because fatigue from flu can be debilitating. Complications from the virus can lead to other problems, such as pneumonia. Continued fever, heavier cough and worsening of other symptoms means further treatment is necessary. If a bacterial infection sets in, you might need antibiotics.

A bad case of the flu is miserable and causes downtime. Arming yourself with information about prevention and protection is the best defense.

Check with your family doctor or local health care facilities, such as hospitals or county health departments, about flu shot availability.

Some large fleets also make the shots available.

Pharmacies and other outlets that offer shots can be located by entering your ZIP code at
this site.

Alkaline-heavy foods, such as spinach and broccoli, may insulate your body from the flu virus.

Acidic foods, including soft drinks and candy, reduce your resistance to flu, according to Thomas Appell, author of Never Get Another Cold.

Do you need to worry about a bird flu pandemic? No – or at least, not yet.

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