We spent the day at Columbus Children’s Hospital today. No, no one in my family is suspected of having the swine flu. It was a regular follow-up appointment scheduled six months ago, before the swine flu panic. After spending the day with swine flu obsessed individuals, I came home to find an email from Guy Kawasaki, co-founder of Alltop, urging bloggers to write about the swine flu to help reduce pandemic panic.
So, this is my contribution, Guy.
Please keep in mind that I am a Registered Nurse, with 13 years of experience in various areas of healthcare. I’m not just spouting off regurgitated news feeds and blowing hot air in your direction.
6 Reasons Swine Flu is Not a Big Deal
The CDC posts an annual report disclosing the leading causes of death sorted by age range. Can you guess what the most common cause of death for all age ranges was last year?
Year after year, unintentional injuries top the list.
You are more likely to die in a car crash than from the flu. In fact, the flu ranks eighth in the list of leading causes of death last year. And that was the REGULAR flu, not the swine flu. There are at least six other things to fear more than influenza A and B.
- Unintentional Injuries (such as falls, motor vehicle accidents, accidental poisoning)
- Heart Disease
- Birth Defects
- REGULAR Flu
The regular old run-of-the-mill flu that many of us get every year is more dangerous than the swine to date.
In 2006, influenza types A and B were listed as the sixth leading cause of death in children ages 1-4, and the seventh leading cause of death in adults over 65. Like most other commonly contracted communicable diseases (other than STDs) the very young and the very old are affected the most. The rest of the population goes on with life mostly unaffected by contracting the flu. The swine flu is no different. (For more information about last year’s flu outbreak check out the CDC’s website: http://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/qa/season.htm)
Dreaded Swine Flu Statistics
So far, there has been one death in the Untied States due to the H1N1 virus. ONE!
286 people have been diagnosed with Swine Flu as of today, May 4, 2009. http://www.cdc.gov/h1n1flu/ That means 285 other people have recovered or are in the process of recovering from a miserable week of feeling crappy. They aren’t scarred for life from contracting the swine flu, they aren’t shunned from public places for life, and they don’t have to wear sweaters with a giant “PF” for pig flu around.
What to Do to Prevent the Flu
Wash your hands. This simple act can decrease your chances of getting all kinds of nasty bugs by as much as 90%. You don’t have to use antibacterial soap or hand sanitizer; just normal everyday suds and plenty of running water for 60-90 seconds is adequate. Sing Happy Birthday to yourself while you wash if you like. Just remember to clean your thumbs, wrists, and under your fingernails. Germs like to hang out in these places.
Don’t touch your eyes, nose, or mouth. When you’re out in public and can’t get to a bathroom to wash, just keep your hands in your pockets or avoid touching your face. Germs have to find a way into your body in order to make you sick. Don’t help them out.
Stay out of elevators and confined spaces. If you are in close proximity to someone with the flu, they are most likely going to cough and sneeze. You can get sick from breathing in infected droplets of moisture that float in the air. Staying in a larger, well-ventilated area or even outdoors decreases your chances of infection by airborne particles.
If you have a compromised immune system (e.g. you have HIV, are taking immunosuppressant medications, or are already sick) stay home. Keep newborns at home as much as possible. If you must go out often, consider contacting your physician about getting vaccinated. He or she will be able to give you specific instructions on how to stay well in public.
What to Do if You Get Sick
DON’T PANIC! Most cases of swine flu and even regular influenza never require medical treatment.
Rest often, drink plenty of liquids, and take Advil or Tylenol for the discomfort. Put your tissues directly in the trash. Wash your hands often and open a window for some fresh air from time to time.
Monitor your temperature and call your healthcare hotline or your physician with any unusual symptoms or if you are not improving after 7 days. Antiviral drugs are available to shorten the life of the flu, but are not necessary for most people.
When to Panic
The CDC recommends seeking Emergency medical attention for the following symptoms (which apply to nearly any illness, not just the flu):
In children, emergency warning signs that need urgent medical attention include:
* Fast breathing or trouble breathing
* Bluish skin color
* Not drinking enough fluids
* Not waking up or not interacting
* Being so irritable that the child does not want to be held
* Flu-like symptoms improve but then return with fever and worse cough
* Fever with a rash
In adults, emergency warning signs that need urgent medical attention include:
* Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
* Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
* Sudden dizziness
* Severe or persistent vomiting
You can learn more about treating influenza from the CDC’s website. http://www.cdc.gov/flu/.
The swine flu sounds scary; I’ll admit it. I don’t want to catch anything that came from a sick pig. I live on a farm. Pigs are gross animals. But swine flu is no more of a concern than the regular flu that plagues us all year after year.
Get the facts, wash your hands, and relax.
Life’s too short to spend your days worrying about the pig flu.