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Happy flu season

We’ve all been waiting for it, we’ve all been excited for it, and now it is almost here! Since the flu season is right around the corner, I figured it would be a good idea to get this out sooner rather than later, so that I don’t have every other person projecting their saliva onto my shirt during class. 

The flu, formally known as influenza, is an annual viral infection that causes symptoms similar to that of the common cold. Having the flu is a miserable experience, and unfortunately, this annual illness pops up right around when spring semester starts (December to February).

Influenza generally comes with characteristic signs and symptoms that are similar to that of the common cold, making it difficult to distinguish between the two. These symptoms include a fever, headache, weakness, a persistent cough and general congestion. Although the flu is a debilitating illness to have, it is thankfully not fatal. 

It can lead to several more serious complications, however, such as ear infections, bronchitis, asthma flare-ups and pneumonia. Pneumonia is the most serious complication, which can lead to death in individuals with a weakened immune system. To potentially avoid these problems entirely during the winter months, seasonal flu vaccines are available in the fall to prepare for flu season.

The flu shot is essentially a concoction of the virus that doctors think will hit during the upcoming flu season. However, these predictions are relatively unreliable. Sometimes the doctors are spot on and almost nobody gets the flu, and other times, they are off and people end up getting sick. 

Nevertheless, I strongly recommend getting vaccinated. If you have a health insurance card that covers preventative care, then you can get your shot for free right here at the Brandeis Health Center. Although the vaccine does not protect against the flu all the time, it can reduce symptoms and make the illness milder. 

Moreover, if you do end up sick, make sure that you take care of yourself. This means staying well-fed, even if you do not have an appetite. This also means staying hydrated and well-rested.

As easy as it is to go to the Health Center, there are many other preventative measures that you can take. The way to avoid getting ill in the first place is by simply avoiding the virus. 

One of the easiest ways to accomplish this is to wash your hands. In many cases, washing your hands with soap and water or using hand sanitizer will prevent the virus from ever reaching your body. Another way to prevent sickness is by staying far away from friends you know are sick. 

Now, I know that Billy may want to invite you over to hang out to play the newly released “Gladiators Unleashed 3” and you’re just itching to play it. But if he has the flu, is it really worth exposing yourself to a virus? Personally, you wouldn’t find me in Billy’s living room. 

Although the flu is a very common infection and there are usually no long-term consequences, this is not always the case. If you are severely dehydrated, then this can turn into a medical emergency. It is vital to see a doctor as soon as possible if you have not been taking in enough fluids. Moreover, if you have difficulty breathing or have any other symptoms that you believe is a cause for concern, then see a doctor immediately. Oftentimes, if people feel like something is wrong, there is an underlying reason.

Although many infections involving influenza are initially harmless, it is important to remember that it can progress to more serious illnesses. If possible, it is also important to try and get vaccinated. Furthermore, practice basic hygienic care such as hand-washing to help prevent this illness. That one trip to the doctor’s office early on in the year could save you over a week of pain. Happy flu season everyone!

(Note: These articles are good-faith attempts to be helpful to the Brandeis community and are by no means to be taken as universal. This article does not replace the advice of a medical professional. This article is not written on behalf of the Brandeis Emergency Medical Corps (BEMCo) and is not affiliated with BEMCo in any manner.)

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