Stuffy head, mild aches, a low-grade fever, thunderous sneezes. Think you’re sick now? Wait until flu season arrives.
Although cold viruses are wreaking havoc across Arizona, state health officials say they’re more concerned with the inevitable winter outbreak of influenza.
Dr. Karen Lewis, medical director at the Arizona Department of Health Services, compared the colds being passed around to squirrels, while the looming flu bug is a gorilla.
You’ll feel fine one hour, and the next you’ll have a high fever and hurt all over, Lewis said. You’ll completely lose your energy, and spend the next three to four days in bed shivering and shaking.
Every year in Arizona, as much as 20 percent of the population gets the flu; more than 4,000 people are hospitalized from flu complications, and about 700 people die.
It’s a little early in the winter for the state to be struck by the flu; historical data shows the season typically peaks in late January or early February. So, that gives people plenty of time to get vaccinated, Lewis said.
But it is an unfortunate accident of timing that many people recently got their flu shots, only to come down with a cold soon after.
Then the shot is unfairly blamed in two ways: for causing the cold, or for not preventing it.
Flu shots don’t offer cold protection any more than putting gas in your gas tank protects you against a flat tire, Lewis said.
Of course, this is little comfort to someone suffering from a cold.
Scottsdale pediatrician Dr. Gary Mallis said it’s impossible for a flu shot to bring on a case of the flu, because the virus used for the inoculation is dead.
Mallis said he’s been treating cases at Grayhawk Pediatrics for the last two weeks. Although the symptoms are mild, children are at risk due to secondary infections and their tendency to swallow mucous-causing gastrointestinal distress, which could lead to dehydration.
Making matters worse is the dusty air currently plaguing the Valley.
Today marks the third straight day under a dustcaused high pollution advisory.
Even more, the National Weather Service has issued an air stagnation advisory effective for today.
Bad air not only aggravates allergies, Mallis said, but it certainly is going to make you respond much worse to upperrespiratory infection caused by a cold.
How to avoid a cold
• The viruses causing colds are spread by human-to-human contact. Because hands are a likely culprit, Scottsdale pediatrician Dr. Gary Mallis mused that Americans might be better off forgoing handshakes in favor for the Asian tradition of bowing.
If you get a cold
• It is important to stay hydrated, so Mallis advises to drink plenty of fluids. Also, over-the-counter medication can be used to treat colds symptoms.
Where to get a flu shot
Information can be found at http://www.cir.org/seasonal-flu.html, or by calling (602) 263-8856 in the Valley and (800) 352-3792 statewide.