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Prairie Fare: Bout of Flu Teaches a Lesson

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I skipped a valuable part of my own health care this year. I didn’t get a flu shot, and I paid the price.

By Julie Garden-Robinson, Food and Nutrition Specialist

NDSU Extension Service

This will be a different sort of column because it is the first one entirely written in a prone state from my “sick nest” on my couch at home. I still can’t sit or stand upright without tipping over. Yes, I could have sent out one of my old weekly columns from the past 18 years. However, I always find that the lessons learned in life are best delivered as they happen.

Three days ago at about 3 a.m., I awakened not feeling well and discovered I was spiking a fever and drenched in perspiration. I knew I needed to make a run for the bathroom, but I was so dizzy I nearly collapsed when I rolled out of bed and narrowly missed hitting a wall as I staggered toward the bathroom.

“Help me!” I exclaimed. Without “oversharing,” let’s just say my husband experienced the “for worse” part of our marital vows.

I was officially sick, with a headache, chills, fever and nausea. The symptom that was worst for me was dizziness. I had been having some respiratory symptoms for several days, but generally my colds are fairly short-lived.

Although I wasn’t officially diagnosed, all my symptoms matched “influenza” or “the flu.”

When my husband went to the grocery store to buy some lemon-lime soda for me, he left our girls in charge. My two “nursing assistants” brought cool wash cloths and dutifully checked on me every 15 minutes per their dad’s recommendation.

I had my temperature checked many times by my daughters. I think using the forehead temperature scanner was a novelty for them. I finally had to tell them my body temperature was OK.

I guess irritability was another symptom of my illness.

Who learned the lesson in this scenario? I did. I skipped a valuable part of my own health care this year. I didn’t get a flu shot, and I paid the price. I figured I was healthy and rarely, if ever, take any sick days. I’ll take a chance, I thought to myself.

Although a flu shot does not cover all strains, getting one can decrease your risk of infection by as much as 90 percent. Working on a well-populated campus, I have ample opportunity for exposure to illness. The flu virus is spread easily on droplets expelled when someone sneezes, for example.

I knew that rest and fluids were the treatments of choice, so I did my best. I found that I had little patience with being a patient.

I became bored watching TV, so someone brought me my computer tablet. I began to read about the symptoms, complications and treatment of the flu on reputable websites such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention site at http://www.cdc.gov.

I’m not so sure that reading about the complications of the flu was the best thing to do while I was ill because I scared myself. I didn’t fall into the high-risk categories, though.

Those at greatest risk of flu complications are people over the age of 65, young children and pregnant women. According to the CDC, American Indians also are at higher risk of flu complications. Having pre-existing conditions, such as heart disease or diabetes, places you at a greater risk of complications.

Be sure to see a health-care provider if you have severe symptoms or you do not get better in a few days. The flu is caused by a virus. Antibiotics do not work because they affect bacterial infections.

From my online research, I was reminded that influenza can progress to pneumonia, which sometimes can result in death. I looked up dizziness associated with the flu and found that dizziness can signal heart, liver or kidney failure and a host of issues.

The good news is that these worst-case scenarios are not very common. Most people get better without special medical treatment.

Given the fact that I had not been able to eat or drink very much, most likely my dizziness was caused by low blood sugar, dehydration or an ear infection. I needed to go to the clinic. I tried to eat something, despite having no appetite, and I had beverages at my side. I ate bland foods, such as toast, and had some chicken broth. Rice, cooked chicken, bananas and hot tea often are recommended when people are sick.

When my appetite returns and the dizziness subsides, I can’t wait to try this nutrient-rich, hydrating beverage. And, next year and all subsequent years, I will have my flu shot. I hope you do, too.

Strawberry Banana Cooler

2 c. orange juice (100 percent juice)

1/2 c. whole frozen strawberries

1 banana

4 ice cubes

In a blender, combine all ingredients and blend until smooth.

Makes four servings. Each serving has 90 calories, 0 grams (g) of fat, 21 g of carbohydrate, 1 g of fiber and 5 milligrams of sodium.

(Julie Garden-Robinson, Ph.D., R.D., L.R.D., is a North Dakota State University Extension Service food and nutrition specialist and professor in the Department of Health, Nutrition and Exercise Sciences.)


NDSU Agriculture Communication – April 10, 2014

Source:Julie Garden-Robinson, (701) 231-7187, julie.garden-robinson@ndsu.edu
Editor:Rich Mattern, (701) 231-6136, richard.mattern@ndsu.edu
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