Finally ! The heat is beginning to recede here in Dubai. It’s almost time for barbeques outside and for children to play in the parks. But guess what else comes around this time… “flu!” Influenza is a viral illness that generally starts around October and peaks in Jan- March in our part of the world.
Let me introduce myself. My name is Moeena Zain and I work in one of the local hospitals as a specialist in infections.
Many of you may have had Influenza before, or may have seen family members suffer from this dreadful illness. Once infected with this, for anywhere between 5- 10 days, you may have high fever, a bad headache and a scratchy throat. You may feel pain in muscles that you didn’t know existed. You may end up missing work . Students miss school and when many people are sick at the same time, this actually affects productivity on a pretty large scale. Influenza also is very easily transmitted to other people! Fortunately, almost everyone eventually gets better.
But there are certain people esp. the elderly in our families and the very young who don’t have the immunity to fight this infection well. They can get serious complications from it, like infections in the lungs called pneumonia, and subsequent difficulty in breathing. Influenza is also severe in people who suffer from other illnesses like heart disease or uncontrolled Diabetes. Every year more than 250,000 people die of complications of Influenza in the US alone, numbers are higher in developing countries. Even pregnant females are especially susceptible to it.
So is there something we can do to reduce our chances of getting Influenza this season? Fortunately , the answer is yes! Since prevention is better than cure, head over to your primary care doctor and get evaluated for a flu shot. Although there is no 100% guarantee of not getting any infections at all after vaccination, taking the Flu shot can greatly reduce your chances of getting this virus, and from developing any serious complications from it. You may feel a little sore in the arm from the jab, though. Vaccines are considered the most important means for prevention from several illnesses and are overall safe. More importantly , get Ammi and Abbo to get the shot as well.
If you do develop the influenza viral infection, make sure to stay home from your work place and don’t send your sick child to school, as this means more people are exposed and infected. Learn how to cover your cough, with the inside of your elbow, so that the drops of sputum don’t land on your hands. Wash your hands very often when you have this or any other infection, because hands transmit more infections than any other method. Drink plenty of fluids, and maybe some Panadol. Your doctor may even start you on one of the medicines specific for this virus. But in the end, what matters the most is rest.
So be smart this winter…stay fit enough to enjoy every day of the coming great weather !
Dr. Moeena Zain completed her basic medical training in 1990 from Dow Medical College, Karachi, Pakistan. She is US Board Certified in Internal Medicine (2000) and Infectious Diseases (2002). Dr. Zain was a Clinical Assistant Professor of Internal Medicine at Regional Academic Health Center, Harlingen, San Antonio. and as a Consultant Infectious Diseases Specialist at Ricardo Garcia PLLC, Texas, USA.