Playing offense is your best defense against influenza.
By Andrea Nagel
Every year thousands of Americans get sick due to influenza. The coughing, sneezing, fever, aches and pains are just a few of the symptoms that make us all want to crawl back into bed. For most, doing just that is the best option when it comes to treating the symptoms of the flu; but for those who are more susceptible to the virus, other options are available.
Tamiflu is an antiviral medication used to treat the flu. Similar to an antibiotic, Tamiflu is used to decrease flu symptoms and shorten the duration of the illness.
“We live in a society where when we get sick, we go to the doctor and expect to get medication to make us better,” David Souvenir, M.D., infectious disease specialist, said. “But in reality not everyone is the right candidate for medications like Tamiflu. There are certain populations that get a greater benefit from the medication than your average, healthy person.”
Those populations include people with upper respiratory diseases like asthma or COPD, those who have immune deficiencies, or people who are in the very early stages of the flu.
“With Tamiflu, it’s best to initiate treatment sooner rather than later,” Dr. Souvenir said. “There is a much greater benefit from starting it within the first 48 hours.”
So, why shouldn’t everyone be prescribed Tamiflu upon diagnosis? Antimicrobial Stewardship.
This term used by physicians and pharmacists means making the appropriate choice and use of medications for the proper patient and duration of the illness.
Dr. Souvenir said it is important not to overprescribe medications in order to prevent strains of diseases from changing and becoming resistant to current medications.
“The best way to protect yourself from influenza is to get vaccinated,” Dr. Souvenir said.
While the flu vaccine is not 100 percent effective, it is currently the best option available to prevent the spread of influenza.
What you can do:
What should you do to protect yourself and others from the flu this year? Dr. Souvenir suggests:
- Get a flu vaccine.
- Wash your hands several times a day with warm water and soap, especially after using the restroom and before eating.
- Use proper cough etiquette; cover your mouth with the crease of your elbow, into your sleeve.
- If you do get sick, stay home and recover. Be sure not to go around those who at greater risk for getting sick. You can remain contagious for up to a week after showing symptoms.
Make an appointment with one of our Kootenai Clinic physicians to get your flu vaccine.