Italian astrologers called the seasonal misery we are familiar with "influenza" because they blamed it, as they did all misfortune, on the influence and placement of the heavenly bodies. However, we now know it's caused by a virus and is highly contagious.
According to Health Canada, 500-1000 deaths occur in Canada each year due to influenza or its complications. The best way to gain protection from the flu is to have a yearly flu shot in the fall. Because of new strains and mutations, the annual shot is necessary to be sure your protection is up to date.
The flu gives you that achy, sneezy, tight-in-the-chest, can't breathe feeling. It's not pleasant for anyone. It's dangerous for the elderly and anyone suffering from a chronic disease or condition. It's doubly dangerous if that condition is breathing related. If you suffer from asthma, bronchitis, sleep apnea, or even if you are a habitual snorer, influenza aggravates the situation.
Some types of influenza cause fever, chills, aches and pains and sore eyes. Other types cause nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Some types, unfortunately, head right for the respiratory tract and cause a dry cough, congestion and a sore throat.
Anyone can get the flu, from infants to the elderly. The greatest risk is for people in the 65-year and older bracket. This is also the age group most likely to be victims of sleeping/breathing disorders such as sleep apnea or COPD. This greatly increases the risk from the flu.
Anyone who suffers from sleep apnea or a severe snoring problem will probably be using a CPAP machine. These cause congestion for many people. The flu aggravates the situation and may render CPAP use impossible.
One of the best defenses against the flu is the flu vaccine. If you are 65 years of age or older or if you suffer from any chronic disorder such as asthma, sleep apnea, emphysema or bronchitis, you should have an annual flu shot. Flu is highly contagious, and you are very susceptible if you have not had a shot.
If you have had the flu and you are having a hard time shaking the final effects, there are steps you can take to speed up the process. A humidifier is very beneficial to add moisture to the air. If you don't have a humidifier, then bowls of water placed on registers and furnaces will serve the same purpose. The moist air is much easier to breathe. Also, take it easy, get lots of rest and avoid strenuous exercise until you are sure you are completely well.
According to the Mayo Clinic, "You're at increased risk of influenza or its complications if you:
- Are an infant or young child
- Are over age 50
- Are a resident of a nursing home or other long term care facility
- Have a chronic disorder, such as diabetes or heart, kidney or lung disease
- Have a weakened immune system, such as from medications or HIV infection
- Will be pregnant during flu season
- Work in a health care facility where you're more likely to be exposed to the flu virus
- Are in regular, close contact with infants or young children."