As subscribers of the hustle culture, we’ve taken our health for granted far more than we should have. We tend to deal with the extremes. We are either dealing with aches, cold, and acidity or we’re dealing with cancer, tumor and a whole string of unknown diseases. Everything in between is conveniently neglected. Up until 2020.
Suddenly, running a cold, cough and fever became alarming across the globe with the rise of the Covid pandemic with these symptoms. After all, we’re so used to dealing with such symptoms that we always have a cough syrup handy or an over-the-counter pill to pop. Ironically, despite all the world’s knowledge available at our finger tips, there are still so many myths that need to be debunked when it comes to everyday health care, starting with something that sounds as basic as flu. Ask a millennial and he/she won’t have an answer about the cause or the effect of the flu that they so often suffer from.
When the Covid pandemic hit the world, the effects of the virus had definitely been severe. However, along with all the chaos, the psychological impact of the disease became a growing phenomenon, right from inception. Most people who suffered through seasonal flu during this period started confusing it with common cold or Covid-19 infection. A cough or a sneeze was enough to send panic tremors in the surroundings.
While we all wait to get fully vaccinated and for the world to heal and recover, a larger reality has been exposed to us. That is of the importance of health and staying informed and healthy at all times. While the lock down contributed majorly in changing our food habits of consuming a regular home cooked meal, for most, this period also turned out to be a golden period by allowing room for proper sleep, enough rest and opportunities to slide away from work to connect with family and self. Additionally, health and self-care became integral factors with many harsh reminders of their importance.
We have all heard of the proverb, “Health is wealth”, but it has never been more relevant than in times like these. Apart from making the necessary lifestyle changes to lead a healthy life, another key factor became to understand the basic nitty-gritties related to health. Especially, for diseases like the flu. In this tenure of dealing with the corona virus and its effects on close family and friends, there began a series of research, discovery and revelations about immunity, resistance and our bodies coping capacities with common symptoms such as cough, cold and fever.
Given that key indicators of the novel corona virus seemed like symptoms of flu, factors like body temperature, presence of cough and cold, running nose and fever became the primary set of conditions to watch out for.
Which is why, understanding the basics became extremely important. On further research online and through conversations with doctors, I realized the range of myths that exist.
Here are some of the integral highlights from my learnings on debunking common myths around flu in India:
- Influenza is not very serious: The term flu is casually thrown around for a range of respiratory diseases. In most cases, we do not realise the severity of the symptoms because our body starts developing resistance and becomes immune from the severe effects that could damage the body. However, it is not always the case. Every year, over 6 million people die of flu across the globe.
- The flu is only a bad cold: You can hope for the flu to be just a bad cold. However, often the bad cold is only the beginning of a series of other symptoms like cough, chest congestion, fever, nausea, which could lead to deteriorated health conditions and suffering.
- Flu vaccination is not necessary: I heard about the flu vaccine not too long ago and I was definitely surprised to know that the CDC recommends everyone above the age of 6 months, including healthy people and pregnant women to get their flu vaccine shot every year. Adults with comorbidities like diabetes, asthma etc are even more at risk. This could lead to larger implications including diseases like pneumonia which have serious repercussions on the respiratory system. Hence, an annual flu shot is highly recommended.
- There is nothing that can be done in case of flu: Flu is caused by virus and is also contagious by nature. It is of utmost importance to take necessary measures and curb its spread, especially to those with weaker immune power. While many of our Indian home remedies make for great immediate cures, it would not be an overreach to consult a medical professional. Which is also why, getting an annual flu vaccine is highly recommended.
Right flu vaccine, at the right time
The WHO has recommended that the Southern Hemisphere (SH) vaccine is the ideal vaccine for India. Influenza vaccination is most effective when local circulating viruses are well-matched with vaccine antigens for SH. Since the peak season of flu in the larger part of the country starts between mid-summer to monsoons, now is the right time to vaccinate against flu for effective protection.
Flu vaccine should be taken annually. However, getting vaccinated early for subsequent seasons is likely to be associated with reduced protection against flu infection later in the flu season, particularly among older adults says CDC. Protection fades over time, so not getting vaccinated with the vaccine containing the right seasonal strains may leave one more vulnerable. Vaccination can be done throughout the SH flu season, even into September or later.
Also remember that there can be a gap of 14 days between your Covid vaccine and flu shot so schedule your appointment accordingly.
While the wait to be fully vaccinated is on, this new knowledge of understanding health care and risks posed by seemingly common diseases like flu should be treated as an eye-opener. Build your immune systems, and also seek regular medical support to eliminate health related risks. After all, every disease starts small before it blows up. And prevention is always better than cure.
The pandemic has not just been life-changing for us on a personal level, it has changed the world. This period of staying home, masking up, taking a pause, prioritizing our health, grieving, making peace will have long lasting impacts. Of course, we all still wait for the time we can get back some normalcy. Perhaps travel again sooner. See the world, embrace the nature. But through all of this, going forward, it will always be our health that will be our biggest wealth and ally.
Start small. Start with basics. Make sure you are protected. Take the flu shot right now – this is the best time to take the shot. Taking care of your health is of utmost importance in order to work well, travel without fear and do other things that we all love to do.
We must #PreventWhatCanBePrevented because flu is preventable with vaccination.