A safe & quick recovery from the flu and Covid this season explained.
Hey, I get it.
I never used to get the flu shot until my employer made me get it in the clinic I worked.
But now I have seen such a huge difference between the folks that get it and the folks that do not.
So I wrote this Quick & Easy Flu/Covid Recovery Planner so you and my patients would know how to recover quickly when you get the flu or COVID.
So here’s what my clinic looked like…Patient A, Jenny
Patient A, let’s call her Jenny, comes into my clinic.
She complains of a low fever, a headache, and a cough.
She is only 22 years old and normally healthy.
When I walk into the exam room, Jenny is sitting on the exam table.
She is talking in full sentences, needs a note for work, and has no nausea or vomiting.
I ask Jenny if she has had her flu shot. She says “Yes”.
I ask her when she got it and she says 2 weeks ago.
(I’ll tell you why I ask that in a bit.)
Jenny tells me about her symptoms, gets treated with over-the-counter congestion medication, gets her work note and recovers just fine.
Her body responded to the flu virus, did not get overwhelmed, and I wanted Jenny’s body to fight it off on its own, which it did.
Now comes Patient B, Susan…
Patient B, let’s call her Susan, come into my clinic.
Susan also complains of a low fever, a headache, and a cough.
She, too, is only 22 years old and normally healthy.
When I walk into the exam room, Susan is lying on the exam table.
She is on her left side facing the wall.
Her right arm is thrown over her eyes.
Sticking out under her body is her left arm.
In the left hand is a green vomit bag.
She is not talking.
I know instantly that Susan has the flu and did NOT get her flu vaccine.
I ask Susan the question I already know the answer to.
No, she did not get the vaccine.
(Now if she responds that she DID get the vaccine, I ask her when.
Usually, the patient with this scenario tells me that they got the flu vaccine within the last 10 days.)
Hmmm. The problem is…
the flu vaccine can take up to 10 days to ramp up in your body.
This means Susan got the vaccine, but it hasn’t had time to ramp up those antibodies.
Antibodies are like soldiers. They go to war on the virus to destroy it before it can multiply and overwhelm Susan’s body.
Now I take extra time with Susan.
I don’t judge her. It’s her choice to get the vaccine or not.
But I do want to keep her safe.
I am worried about her lungs.
I ask her questions like:
Do you smoke?
Are you around smokers?
Do you have any lung issues?
(Seniors usually have a history of smoking or have COPD, but Susan’s age group? I am checking for asthma.)
“Is there anyone who can watch over you for the next 5 days?”, I ask.
(I need someone to make sure Susan is up and around and getting better).
It’s called “eyes on” in our medical practices.
I also need to know that this person has to see Susan getting up.
Is she dying or resting?
Too many friends might think Susan is “resting” when in reality she is lying in bed because she is dying because she can’t breathe.
When you can’t breathe you are losing your energy.
Too often, I watched caregivers carrying their loved ones into the ER under these circumstances.
They thought Dad was resting when in reality he was dying and when they couldn’t wake him, they finally called 911.
(Here is a link to a Dad’s story about his healthy son who died from the flu)
And no, Susan never asks for a work note, because she is not thinking about that.
(Another tell-tale sign that Susan is not doing well.)
But now comes the part where a lot of doctors get mad at me.
Depending on how high of a risk Susan is for lung problems and when her symptoms began, I may or may not give Susan Tamiflu, an antivirus medication.
AND I may or may not give her a z-pak. This is a bacterial antibiotic. It is not going to help fight a virus like the flu or COVID.
But that is not what I am using it for.
Azithromycin (also called a z-pak) has LUNG anti-inflammatory properties and can keep the lungs from blowing up into a massive inflammation. The pulmonary doctor I studied under taught me this.
And sure enough, lung-diseased patients with a z-pak did better than those without one when I worked in his practice.
How do you know if you or your loved one is getting worse?
Here’s what happens…
The lungs become inflamed.
They swell. (By the way, there is no coughing so don’t be fooled).
No oxygen can get into the bloodstream.
The patient gets tired and lays down to rest.
Breathing becomes shallower.
Now, no one can wake the patient.
911 is called.
So I’m using a Z-pak to protect the lungs.
(Many providers will tell me I’m creating bacterial resistance by “over-using” this bacterial medication for a virus. We should let the body take its course.
And I agree.)
But after working in the ER and in pulmonary medicine, I tend to err on the side of caution with patients who have lung disease.
Your doctor who knows you best will determine your treatment.
You cannot go into a clinic and demand a Z-pak. This will really make your doctor NOT give it to you.
Always take the advice of your doctor as you may be the person who needs your body to fight this virus on its own like I want Jenny to do.
Yes, I call Susan the next day to see how she is doing and may even call her over the next three days or have her text me.
The key is: She has to get better than the day before, and that’s why I made this tracker. These are the 7 things I am looking for when I talk to her.
Pick up my free Quick & Easy Flu/Covid Recovery Planner here.
Hopefully, you will avoid the Flu and COVID this winter, but just in case, let’s keep you and your loved ones out of the emergency room by using this tracker.
P.S. By the way, if you’re getting better and see yourself recovering nicely, but then you take a turn for the worse, ALWAYS call your doctor. This may be another infection taking over your already weakened immune system. Don’t wait.