A sneeze could land you with swine flu.

November 3, 2017 Lifestyle Diseases 10748 Views


In today’s hectic world, it’s easy to ignore the common cold or cough. But very often the cold aggravates and accompanied by entire body ache forces the person to take a break and focus on getting rest, regain strength and have medication that will ease the pain.  This is the ordinary flu as we all know it. But recently doctors have discovered that its virus mutates very fast. And it’s these strains which doctors identify as H1N1.

So it’s as simple as a sneeze or a cough infecting a person. But this respiratory illness can be acute with accompanying symptoms like high fever, vomiting, extreme fatigue, runny nose etc. Not just this, senior citizens and kids are more at risk as they have low immunity in general. So are people with chronic conditions such as diabetes, asthma, heart and respiratory ailments.

This makes it imperative to seek medical help and refrain from over-the-counter or self -medication as these normally provide only symptomatic relief. Besides, antibiotics are ineffective as a virus causes the flu and not bacteria.

Another important concern is that people frequently do not realize the severity and mistaking it to be a common cold that will go away, do not seek medical advice. But this leads to further complications: from pneumonia and bacterial infection to multi-organ failure and even death (due to acute respiratory distress syndrome). Dehydration could be another fallout.  Not just this, H1N1 swine flu can be as fatal as the seasonal flu. And When it affects pregnant women, they may need admission to the ICU.

Obesity could also be another risk factor, particularly those with a BMI of 40 or more.  Why are obese people more susceptible? Simple – they don’t have much respiratory reserve and it’s the same with the ability to fight infections.

But the good news is that we can prevent swine flu with the yearly flu vaccine.  Because each year, the scientists develop the vaccination to fight the H1N1 virus more forcefully and effectively. Another simple step is hand sanitization and keeping away from infected persons. After all, swine flu spreads rapidly from person to person.

Let us see how Adya and Kamli tackled Swine Flu!

Now imagine you are a twenty-something like Kamli whose roommate Adya thought she just had the sniffles. Luckily, Kamli managed to coax Adya to visit a General Physician who correctly diagnosed the latter as suffering from swine flu. This meant they would have to ground Adya. She would not able to attend rehearsals for the Annual College Day or the extra practice sessions on economics, law and the like. Her diarrhea didn’t persist, but she would spread germs by mingling about freely. This meant depending heavily on Kamli to catch up on missed notes and also the gossip!

While Adya kept herself well hydrated with various fluids thanks to a plethora of tetra packs readily available off the shelves; the pressure was much more on Kamli. Having a sick roommate meant lingering germs and cleaning, disinfecting and cleaning door knobs and the small desk they shared. As close contact couldn’t be avoided, Kamli would wear a face mask.

An interesting fact that Adya and Kamli came to know is that aspirins were a taboo for teenagers, as they would run the risk of a serious illness called Reye’s Syndrome. But a positive outcome was that both Adya and Kamli were now more conscious of their health and stayed alert for symptoms that would not be concerned about earlier – such as giddiness or constipation. They also actively made lifestyle changes such as not skipping meals and eating healthy food as far as possible.

The best thing they did was make a chart of their daily activities, medication, diet etc. They did this to caution themselves about certain symptoms that may worsen and become life-threatening. Topping the list: shortness of breath, abdomen or chest pain and sudden dizziness, confusion.

Who is at risk?

While Adya and Kamli could manage well, were able to look after themselves and stall the spread of H1N1, there are vulnerable age groups who need looking after. Take the case of 6-year-old Priya who was very fond of stroking animals, especially petting stray dogs and the cat. This led to her contacting swine flu even though her parents would constantly get her to wash her hands. It is vital to inculcate principles of hygiene from an early age to guard against diseases like swine flu. Not just washing hands thoroughly and frequently, another feature that should be taught to young children reeling under swine flu is to cough or sneeze into their elbow, not in their hands; and to avoid touching their face with their hands.

Parents should also watch out for nasal congestion, sore throat and cough in children and should consult their general physicians immediately. Laboratory tests are the best way to ascertain whether a child has swine flu.

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