Every year I feel like there’s a lot of hype around The Flu Shot that just really seems overblown. I mean, sure, I’ve gotten the flu from time to time, and I’m miserable for a couple of days. It’s really not that big a deal, right? I “have” to miss a day or two of work and sit around watching TV. It’s a bit like a miserable mini vacation. In fact, Lewis Black summed up how I’ve always felt about the flu shot in his routine: Nothing’s Sacred.
Every other year they issue a .. traditional warning: “Get a flu shot! Get a flu shot! This is gonna be the worst flu ever, and it’s coming our way!”
It was a warning that I usually ignored. What, I figured, do I need a flu shot for? I’m relatively young, I’m in good health, I’m not in a high-risk group – I’ll take my chances. And guess what? In all of those years, I’ve never got the flu. Not once.
My track record with the flu isn’t quite that good, but I’ve never been that worried. Until this year, that is.
Really Getting the Flu Really Sucks
A couple of weeks ago I was going about my business and doing just fine. I had my brother and his wife, and their baby girl over for dinner and games on Sunday. It was really fun. I went to bed and felt fine… Until I woke up the next morning.
Now I get up at five every morning despite the fact that I don’t go to work until at least an hour later. It gives me time to write things like this. On this particular Monday, I felt a little off. Not so much that I could tell I was going to be dog sick for a week and more, but still.
How it Began
So I decided to get to work early and just get done as quickly as possible. After all, unless I cannot be more than 10 feet from a bathroom when I’m sick, or unless I’ve got a fever, I tend to go to work. I need the money, just like the rest of the world. It doesn’t help that I don’t get any sick leave of any kind unless I want to chew into my holiday pay.
I drove to work and felt a bit light-headed. I hadn’t had anything for breakfast yet, I rationalized. When I got out of my car I almost fell over I was so dizzy. That was unusual. I tottered into the building and into the elevator. Then from the elevator to my desk, where I promptly downed my last granola bar and chugged a bottle of water. “Maybe if I sit down and let the food settle, I’ll feel better,” I reasoned. I was wrong.
After an hour and a half, in which I just felt worse and worse, I stood up to get something from the printer. I blacked out and nearly passed out less than two feet from my desk. I clutched the wall of my cubicle like I was a drowning person and it was the only shard of wood left from a sunken ship. I was not going to stay at work if it’s getting this bad this quickly. I got my bearings, put on my coat and got into the elevator to go home.
A Week of Misery
I had to pull off the road a half-dozen times to park and let waves of dizziness pass during my 20 minute drive back to my home. It was terrifying!! I got home and curled up on the couch. It turns out that the light-headedness was only the start of my misery!
When I checked my temperature it was hovering right around 101℉. Uh oh. And it stayed right around there until Thursday afternoon. Now, because I’m a guy, I get man sick. Every symptom seems like it’s going to kill me. The problem with this flu is that had I been any less healthy or the flu any more severe, it would have seriously, and truly, put that exaggeration to the test.
I felt like there was incredible pressure in my joints and bones. It honestly felt like my bones would explode! I would go from shivering cold to sweating in less than a second and without any way of predicting. I’m not talking about: “Oh, it’s chilly, I need a blanket” or “Wow, get this blanket away from me.” I’m talking about going from uncontrollable shivering, where a heating pad going at full strength inside a blanket over a heating vent when the thermostat’s at 90℉ is still not enough to feel okay. I’m talking being hot enough to want to strip everything I’m wearing and take an ice bath.
I was congested, slept for hours on end (when the shivering, sweating, or coughing would allow), lost all appetite, and had some stomach distress on top of it all! And it wasn’t until Thursday afternoon that my fever finally broke for real!
I went to work for about 2 hours on Wednesday before I realized it was a terrible idea. I struggled through around 4 hours on Thursday, and as much as I wasn’t dying anymore, a whole day at work on Friday was miserable.
But That Wasn’t All
Oh no. It couldn’t be all, could it? No. Sure, the worst of it was over. But here I am a couple of weeks later, my appetite has finally returned. I am starting to breathe normally again, and my cough is intermittent and relatively mild. I still feel like I need to sleep all day, but it’s improving bit by bit.
That flu knocked me on my butt for a week. And it’s been more than two getting back up again. I cannot imagine how someone else, say a kid or an aging person, could have dealt with that. I should have gone to a doctor. I should have done more than take decongestants and acetaminophen and tried to sleep it off. But being the stubborn idiot I am, I didn’t do any of those things.
Why Go Through All That When…
If my description of the misery of the flu wasn’t enough to convince you that you should take some preventive measures, I hope that some CDC statistics on the flu progress for the week of January 20th might. Seriously, it’s actually a big deal. Especially if you have young or older people around you. And even more so if you’re one of those young or old people!
So it’s always a good idea to wash your hands regularly. And by regularly, I mean before every meal, after every time you use the restroom. Use hand sanitizer (and then lotion if you need it) nearly immediately after you shake someone’s hand. I generally follow all of these guidelines and I caught a knock-down-drag-out flu.
You can also drink orange juice or eat fruits to boost your Vitamin C. You can eat healthy, balanced meals and exercise to keep your body running at peak efficiency and help it resist getting any kind of bug, and even if you get one, being fit will help you fight off any kind of sickness you might get. It’s a good policy, even if it’s not one I follow so well.
You could even wear one of those masks to keep yourself from breathing the same unfiltered air as all the poor fools around you. Now, of course, doing so screams that you’re paranoid…or sick. Because if, by some miserable chance, you get the flu and have to go into crowded public areas or enclosed rooms: you really should wear a mask in consideration of everyone else who doesn’t want your stupid flu. Trust me. They don’t want it. Sharing is not caring, in this case.
All of these things are helpful, and can prevent you from getting the flu. The issue is that unless you’re going to live in a bubble where you run a sanitizing light over everything, interact with people only through those doofy glove-ports, and eat only the blandest food, you’re going to be exposed to something that could get you sick. It’s just a part of living in the world and not in a bubble.
But Really, Just Get a Flu Shot
Coming from someone who used to be really skeptical of the usefulness of the flu shot, I hope you take this seriously: GET A FLU SHOT! There are those people who are worried about the safety of vaccinations, or the risk of some unforeseen and entirely uncommon side effects. Most of the time, and I mean in almost every case ever, that’s not a concern. I’m not going to convince the dyed-in-the-wool anti-vaxxers, and I don’t really care to try.
If you’re on the fence, at all, about getting a flu shot, just get one. This year and next year, and the year after that. Not only does the flu shot help prevent you from getting many strains of the flu, it can actually make life a lot easier if you actually pick up a strain that wasn’t vaccinated for. A CDC study showed that the risk and dangers of the flu are heavily mitigated if someone has had the flu shot.
Not only will it keep you from being quite as totally miserable as I was, it will help prevent the spread of the flu. You don’t want someone you care about to feel like I did either. Especially not when it could result in a hospitalization. Not least because hospitals are expensive! And flu shots are generally free. Yep, you heard right, free.
Don’t know where to get the flu shot? Well, once again the CDC comes to the rescue with a handy Flu Vaccine Finder. Unless you’re in the middle of nowhere, I’m pretty sure that there’s somewhere within just a few minutes of you where you can get a flu shot for free.
Life Lesson Learned:
I’m getting the Flu Shot next time!
Pick up Lewis Black’s Nothing’s Sacred
It’s not for everyone, but a lot of his stuff is pretty darned funny.
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