Better Health: Smart Health Commentary Better Health (TM): smart health commentary

Latest Posts

What To Expect If You Get The Flu

One of my dear friends just came down with influenza, and she asked me for some advice. Top of mind questions included – When can I go back to work? And when will I get better? So in a nutshell, here’s what I told her (borrowing heavily from the CDC website):

  1. The most common flu symptoms are: Fever or feeling feverish/chills; Cough; Sore throat; Runny or stuffy nose; Muscle or body aches; Headaches; Fatigue (feeling very tired)
  2. Adults shed influenza virus from the day before symptoms begin through 5—10 days after illness onset. However, the amount of virus shed, and presumably infectivity, decreases rapidly by 3—5 days after onset.
  3. Most experts believe that flu viruses spread mainly by droplets made when people with flu cough, sneeze or talk. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby. Less often, a person might also get flu by touching a surface or object that has flu virus on it and then touching their own mouth, eyes or possibly their nose.
  4. Uncomplicated influenza illness typically resolves after 3—7 days for the majority of persons, although cough and malaise can persist for >2 weeks.
  5. The 2011–12 U.S. seasonal influenza vaccine virus strains are identical to those contained in the 2010–11 vaccine. Annual vaccination is recommended even for those who received the vaccine for the previous season. Vaccination is the most effective prevention strategy available to reduce your risk of catching the flu.
My suggestions: Don’t go in to work (if you have the option) until 5 days after illness onset. If you go in earlier, you can wear a little face mask (and use Purell or other alcohol-based hand sanitizer) to prevent spread of the virus. Next year, get your flu shot early in the season.
As far as treatment is concerned, the Mayo Clinic recommends: LIQUIDS, REST, and TYLENOL or IBUPROFEN for pain. No vitamins or supplements have been shown to shorten the course of the flu.
P.S. My suggestions are relevant for “garden variety” flu sufferers. If you are immuno-compromised, elderly, or otherwise in a high risk category, please check out the CDC website for more information.

Audio: ACP President: Not Enough Americans Have Been Vaccinated Against H1N1 Flu

stubbsOver 10,000 Americans (mostly young) have already died of H1N1 flu, and yet we’ve only vaccinated 10-20% of those who need protection. January 10-16 is National Influenza Awareness Week, and the American College of Physicians is doing its part to raise awareness of the ongoing need to protect Americans from the next wave of influenza.

I interviewed ACP President, Dr. Joseph Stubbs, about the current influenza season and Americans’ vulnerabilities to the virus. Please enjoy the audio of our conversation or read the transcript below.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Read more »

Sent Elsewhere: Pharmacy Conglomerates Hoarding Flu Vaccines

I’m working with a small team of primary care physicians in Vienna, Virginia. Part of their strategic business plan is to offer flu shots to local residents via office visits and house calls. Just last week I accompanied Dr. Alan Dappen on a series of flu shot house calls to the frail elderly. They were too weak to come to the office, but wanted to be protected from life-threatening flu. I was really proud to be able to care for them in their own homes and wondered how many emergency room visits we would avert this season with our strategy.

The answer may be “fewer than I thought” – but not for the reason I expected. As it turns out, a local pharmacy conglomerate has bought up most of the flu vaccine supply, so that our practice can’t get any more. Although we have hundreds of patients requesting flu shots, we just don’t have the goods. And I can tell you that the frail elderly (who would have benefited from our house calls) won’t go to the pharmacy to get them. They’ll be at risk for the flu, and will have to wait until we can get more vaccine – whenever that happens. Read more »

Latest Interviews

IDEA Labs: Medical Students Take The Lead In Healthcare Innovation

It’s no secret that doctors are disappointed with the way that the U.S. healthcare system is evolving. Most feel helpless about improving their work conditions or solving technical problems in patient care. Fortunately one young medical student was undeterred by the mountain of disappointment carried by his senior clinician mentors…

Read more »

How To Be A Successful Patient: Young Doctors Offer Some Advice

I am proud to be a part of the American Resident Project an initiative that promotes the writing of medical students residents and new physicians as they explore ideas for transforming American health care delivery. I recently had the opportunity to interview three of the writing fellows about how to…

Read more »

See all interviews »

Latest Cartoon

See all cartoons »

Latest Book Reviews

Book Review: Is Empathy Learned By Faking It Till It’s Real?

I m often asked to do book reviews on my blog and I rarely agree to them. This is because it takes me a long time to read a book and then if I don t enjoy it I figure the author would rather me remain silent than publish my…

Read more »

The Spirit Of The Place: Samuel Shem’s New Book May Depress You

When I was in medical school I read Samuel Shem s House Of God as a right of passage. At the time I found it to be a cynical yet eerily accurate portrayal of the underbelly of academic medicine. I gained comfort from its gallows humor and it made me…

Read more »

Eat To Save Your Life: Another Half-True Diet Book

I am hesitant to review diet books because they are so often a tangled mess of fact and fiction. Teasing out their truth from falsehood is about as exhausting as delousing a long-haired elementary school student. However after being approached by the authors’ PR agency with the promise of a…

Read more »

See all book reviews »