Dodging winter’s knockout punch

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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.

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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.

The chance of humans contacting the potentially fatal disease is very low and there have been no reported cases in the United States.

Health officials are monitoring the spread of avian influenza, so stay alert to the latest news reports.

Many people use the terms cold and flu interchangeably, but there’s a big difference. A cold will set you back with sniffles and general misery. The flu will feel as if someone backed his truck over you. Flu symptoms come on suddenly and include:

  • Fever (usually high);
  • Severe aches in the joints and muscles and around the eyes;
  • General weakness;
  • Ill appearance with warm, flushed skin and red, watery eyes;
  • Headache;
  • Dry cough and sore throat;
  • Watery discharge from the nose.
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