Posts Tagged ‘Flu’


November 3, 2010

Doctor: “What’s wrong with you?”  Patient: “Flu.”  Doctor: “Looks like you crashed!” – Old Joke

Ready for Cold and Flu Season?

Colds and Flu can be rough on someone living with a Congenital Heart Defect. We tend to heal slower than others, and with our less than perfect Circulatory Systems, chest colds can be a nightmare. Whenever I catch a cold, it’s usually going to hit me harder than the next guy. The same cold that will keep him in the bed for a day could keep me in the bed for several days. That is, if I can lie down. It is liable to clog me up to the point that when I lie down, I feel as if I am drowning. Often I wind up sleeping upright in the big recliner in the living room, tucked under a blanket.

Heart parents today have a yearly debate, trying to decide how to care for their child during the winter months. Some parents just bundle them up tighter than usual, others decide that the best thing to do is to go into lockdown, rarely coming out during the winter months. My parents were of the “bundle him up” group. Not because of any instructions from my Cardiologists, but rather the lack of instructions. I was born in 1966 and most of my childhood that I can remember occurred during the 1970’s. The ’70’s were “back then” as far as Congenital Cardiology was concerned – no Pediatric Cardiologist had a good answer for most of my parent’s questions because there weren’t that many Cardiac Kids around. The usual answer was “I don’t know!” or something close to it.

I had a Cardiologist who wasn’t much on the bedside manner – a visit to his office was almost like playing hockey and continually being slammed into the walls – but he was pretty smart. He told my parents that “If you want him to be a normal child, you have to treat him as close to normal as possible.” So my folks just let me go – with limits. During winter I had on so many clothes I felt like a turtle; if I fell over there was no way I could get up. I’d just lie there and roll around on the ground. If someone at church was sick I had better not sit near them, or move as soon as I realized that they were ill. I missed a few services over the years when several people had colds, and even missed a few days of school for the same reason (which highly irritated one teacher!) But I muddled through. I caught the occasional cold and suffered through it, but that is a normal part of childhood.

I can’t say this is what you should do, only your Cardiologist can advise you on what to do during Cold and Flu Season. And be sure to ask your Cardiologist – your Primary Care doctor will have good advice, but you have a heart defect. Ask the doctor who specializes in hearts, he or she will have a better answer.

Most of the time – not always – the Flu Vaccine will be recommended for us. If you are in doubt, again – ask your Cardiologist. As a general rule we’re told to get “dead virus” vaccinations. At the current time vaccinations in the United States can be either “dead virus” or “live virus”. Live virus vaccinations have actual, living virus cells in them – they are weakened, but they are living. With a dead virus vaccination the virus has been deactivated. Even deactivated, the body still realizes that a case of the Flu is present and starts building antibodies to stop it. As far as I know, only the FluMist vaccination is a live virus formula.  Be certain to inform the person giving the vaccine that you have a chronic health condition and need the dead virus formula.

While you should always be cautious, you should never be scared to live your life!

A new Christmas carol!

September 7, 2010

“On the seventh day of September, various doctors gave to me….”

One Prothrombin Time test;

A magnesium level request;

Could you check your BMP…..

After your Physical Therapy,

Your Orthopedic doctor should be seen;

And before you’re through get this year’s Flu Vaccine!

Six different items scheduled on four different days… Posting might be a little slow this week!

It ain’t over just yet!

March 25, 2010

Guess who’s back in town?

Guess who never really left?

H1N1 is on the upswing again in the state of Georgia, reaching their highest level since September 2009. The good news (if there is any good news to be found in H1N1) is that while hospitalizations are up, there has only been one H1N1 related death in the past week. This follows reports of regional and localized H1N1 activity in eleven States and Puerto Rico.

What do you do with a sick kid?

March 8, 2010

Zeb Update: There has been a jailbreak! It is my understanding that Zeb was last seen running down the hall clutching his discharge papers, with half a dozen doctors and nurses (and a few billing clerks!) in hot pursuit!

Actually Zeb was released late in the day, and since he lives about four hours from the hospital, he and his parents are staying in a local hotel overnight. They will head for home in the morning.

And now onto tonight’s post:

I had just shook my pastor’s hand yesterday morning when someone asked him where his wife was.

“She’s at home,” he said. “The kids have a bug.”

Bug? I thought. Ut-oh!

As I read the web pages of other families fighting heart defects, I can’t help but notice their strategies for avoiding illness: A good number of families almost went on full lockdown this winter. Perhaps that tactic has been in reaction to the H1N1 Flu that has been prevalent this year, or perhaps it is a yearly strategy.

One thing a Cardiac Kid doesn’t need is a cold or the flu, but I didn’t take any unusual precautions when I was growing up. Of course I followed my parents rules about not hanging around with people who were obviously ill, and I remember missing the occasional church service or high school basketball game because there was something going around.

I’m not saying that I’m right and everyone else is wrong – Knowledge about Heart Defects has really grown since I was a child; back then most of our questions was answered with the phrase “I don’t know.” And since no one knew, it seemed that the best thing to do was to carry on as usual – until something changed. (We did take my doctor’s advice, after my second operation in 1977 I didn’t leave the house for at least a month. And I am told that after my 1967 operation it was quite a while before my parents took me to church – and as soon as the Pastor said the final “Amen!” Momma picked me up and sprinted for the car!)

We weren’t following the rulebook because there really wasn’t a rulebook to follow. One of the funnier moments occurred when my dad asked a cardiologist what over the counter cold remedies I could take that would not affect my medication. “Kleenex,” the doctor replied.)

I’ve been lucky, I somehow manage to avoid most winter illnesses, or else have a “mild” case of it. I may have a mild case but it really does a number on my system if I catch it! The best thing to do then is just STOP – it’s going to run its course, so I try not to get in the way. I get my doctor approved Kleenex, settle down on the couch, and start looking for good movies on the TV.

Am I healthier today because I was out and about and have developed a little immunity to the various coughs and colds that go around? Or is keeping your Cardiac Kid on a tight rein during the winter the right idea? I don’t know, and I don’t think we’ll ever know. This is probably a time when the best thing to do is to trust your doctor and your parental instincts.

Even More Flu News!

October 12, 2009

It always seem to happen – I save up some good links about the H1N1 Swine Flu, go back through them and read them carefully, type an informative post… and as soon as I publish it, I find even more information that I think you could use.

It’s happened again, as usual. But instead of saving them until my next Flu Update, I decided to post them today. They’re pretty important links that you should  read, but also I have to see the doctor today. It’s my first time seeing this doctor, so I don’t know how long it will take.

I’m not seeing a new specialist – my usual doctor (my Primary Care Physician, for those of you who don’t live in the United States) recently retired, and this is my first appointment with my new doctor. Since my heart is *ahem* quite unusual, I think I’ll be there for a while!

But on to the flu… If you have a TamiFlu prescription for your child, be very careful. Doctors usually prescribe liquid medication in milliliters, but the TamiFlu box has a syringe that measures Milligrams. These measurements are not the same, and you could easily give too much or too little of the drug.

Revere over at Effect Measure (who has become one of my favorite Flubloggers) has a look at Intensive Care Unit (ICU) occupancy in the Southern Hemisphere and has some disturbing news: ICU units could get slammed. It’s not so much that we don’t have enough ICU beds to deal with a crisis, you have to have a staff with the required amount of medical training.

The second wave of H1N1 is sweeping the United States, brought on my close contact. As I’ve mentioned before, Influenza loves a crowd, and it is fall – school is back in session. Flu is even altering our worship habits: The Archdiocese of Winnipeg is taking steps to limit the spread of the Flu. No Holy Water for a while (but there is hand sanitizer) and shaking hands is discouraged. The public area is sanitized after each service, and even the Chalice gets wiped after every use. It feels strange, I’m sure, but I think God understands.

And finally, a post that I hope will reassure those who have questions about the vaccine. You really do need this immunization, especially if you have a Chronic Illness. I’ve had my seasonal flu shot, I’m on the lookout for the H1N1 shot, and I highly recommend that you do the same.

And now, off to the doctor’s office!

Swine Flu Update: September 24

September 24, 2009

Influenza loves crowds, and H1N1 has (literally) found a captive audience:  Two prisoners in the Federal Penitentiary in Memphis, Tennessee have the Swine Flu. Obviously the prison has been quarantined and the two prisoners segregated from the rest of the population. Prisons are very good at implementing their Lockdown procedures during times of unrest; so hopefully they can overcome this.

There are new cases of H1N1 in Iran, and half of those are from people returning from their pilgrimage to Mecca. The Iranian government recently banned its citizens from going to Mecca this year. The airport in Cairo, Egypt is gearing up to screen their returning citizens in an effort to mitigate H1N1. At least the people who rent private jets are happy!

Health Canada had a whopper of a faux pas this week when they sent relief supplies to reservations in Manitoba: Inside the crate were hand sanitizer, face masks… and body bags! The local authorities are quite upset, as you might imagine. To make it even worse, a manufacturer of body bags told the Ottawa Citizen that sales are up. I can understand making plans for what to do if the worst happens, but do you have to go out and brag about it? Remember the World War II slogan: Loose Lips Sink Ships! or in this case, panic the people.

There is good news – The Centers for Disease Control recently conducted tests in which they injected H1N1 and H5N1 (the Bird Flu) into ferrets. The two diseases did not combine – good news, since H1N1 spreads easier but H5N1 is more lethal. Flu of all types is still unpredictable, but it seems the two can’t be forced upon one another. CDC has revised its guidelines on flu symptoms and when you should seek treatment (as you see more cases, you learn more about how to deal with it) and a nasal spray vaccine will be available the first week of October. It is not recommended for those of us with “heart disease” so I don’t know about CHDers, but I’m betting we’ll have to wait for the shots. But if you are the parent of a medically fragile child and you are healthy, it could be worthwhile to pursue the early inoculation.

As always, it is best to stay calm and watch/read as much news as you can. Find sources outside of your home country, as they often have a different perspective you may not have considered. And I still personally feel that getting the H1N1 shot is very important.

Swine Flu Update: September 8

September 8, 2009

We can be pretty stupid at times.

The Centers for Disease Control H1N1 Flu website states, “Influenza is thought to spread mainly person-to-person through coughing or sneezing of infected people.” Yet where will a good number of Americans be this fall? Here, or someplace similar.

Don’t fool yourself, this isn’t a healthy place to be. Washington State University has 2,000 students down with H1N1. Emory University has 50 students sick; they have re-opened a closed dorm and reassigning sick students there until they feel better. They are getting delivered meals, Tamiflu twice a day, and not allowed to go to class. Washington State has no Quarantine procedure in place… so the Swine Flu may be three seats to your left at the football game next Saturday.

Communicable diseases like the flu love crowds. The United States Department of Defense plans to inoculate the entire military and airlines are hiding the pillows and blankets they usually distribute to customers. The last time I flew, First Class passengers found a shrink wrapped blanket waiting in their seat. Those of us in the back of the cabin had to make do with four inches less legroom and only one package of pretzels.

I’m going to be getting my flu shots this fall, that’s for certain. And I think I’ll watch all of my football on TV!

Flu Update: July 28

July 28, 2009

Well, it finally happened.

I was sitting in the hotel restaurant Sunday morning and saw a report from WRAL-TV summarizing the Swine Flu (H1N1) outbreak in North Carolina. The news media is starting to pay attention.

That might not be a good thing: At least one medical blogger believes that news coverage so far has been “misguided and dangerous” and another considers it “media malpractice.” TV news – especially local TV news – has always concentrated on “The Fuzz and the Was” to generate ratings. People seem to be drawn to bad news, so stations concentrate on crime (which of course brings out the Fuzz, an older slang term for the police) and death (the “was”… people who *was* here but aren’t anymore). So examine everything you see or read with a critical eye.

That said, the British Heart Foundation says that people with a complex Congenital Heart Defect (CHD) could be at a greater risk for H1N1 complications. They recommend that CHDers go for treatment as soon as possible after they begin to show symptoms. Effect Measure has a great post about identifying Swine Flu symptoms that you really need to read, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) also has good information. I’ve posted both of those links before, but there is every reason in the world to remind ourselves what to look for. If you have a Chronic Illness, you’re more susceptible to H1N1. CDC also has an information sheet on the H1N1 vaccine. People with underlying health conditions are a priority group to receive the vaccine.

Canadian researchers are attempting to discover if Vitamin D protects against the Swine Flu. A positive finding would give us another weapon to fight with, because H1N1 could become resistant to Tamiflu.

Meanwhile the Pandemic – and the Panic – continues in Great Britain, egged on in part by sensationalist press coverage. Thermometer sales are up 700% and you can hardly find one for sale. The Guardian acknowledges that there is “more panic than pandemic” but the very next day The Daily Mail warns that Tamiflu resistance could “leave Britain all but defenceless”!

The flu is gonna get you, so run for your lives! Oh, as you leave… buy our newspaper!

Bottom Line: H1N1 can have serious consequences for the Chronically Ill, including (and perhaps especially) those of us with a Heart Defect. So watch the news with a critical eye, keep up with the latest flu news, and take care of yourself. The only one who is really looking out for your health is YOU.

Swine Flu Update: July 10, 2009

July 10, 2009

New information about the Swine Flu (H1N1) has raised eyebrows recently. Some hedge funds and airports are preparing for the flu – not as preparation for an anticipated natural disaster, but focusing mainly on how to keep their operations going if some of their staff is out sick. Just innocent planning, updating plans already in place… but the fact that they are doing it now should cause a small alarm bell to go off in your head. Scott McPherson says that the worst is yet to come and he presents some pretty alarming numbers along with his prediction.

An illness with flu-like symptoms popped up at Wimbledon during the recent Championships; all four of those affected were told to stay home. “They haven’t been tested for swine flu and they’re not going to be,” a spokesman said. Not very bright on their part. Or perhaps they didn’t test because the Treasury’s empty.

While the number of H1N1 cases is going up, the severity of H1N1 is still mild… unless you happen to have an “underlying medical condition.” The United States is planning a vaccination campaign for the fall, (in addition to the “regular” flu vaccine) and at the moment, it looks as if the H1N1 vaccine will be delivered in two doses. You could protect yourself with a facemask, but there are doubts that they are that effective. BioMask may be the best mask available, and is now available over the counter… in Hong Kong! If you’re not jetting off to Hong Kong for a while, here’s the CDC’s recommendation.

There is still no predicting exactly what is going to happen here – use the internet and your flu resources to keep tracking this illness. Stay informed. You will have to do this on your own, the national media in the United States is not paying attention.

UPDATE: I’ve found more resources for you in my morning search of my sources. Nine more have died from H1N1 in New York City. That’s correct – nine more people have died from H1N1 in an American city. Unless you live in the Northeast, you probably haven’t heard about it. BUT… Michael Jackson is still dead, and that is what is important!

Here’s a report from Johns Hopkins on what we need to be doing now to combat H1N1. Here’s a page from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) about what to do if you get flu-like symptoms. CHDers and others with chronic illnesses need to review this link; there are special guidelines for those “at high rick for flu complications” and a list of emergency warning signs.  Here’s another CDC page, about their recommendations to state and local officials for vaccination policies. Again, there is a section that applies to the chronically ill.

And for some first person timely advice, here’s a New York Times article about the school nurse in the center of the worst school outbreak so far.

Swine Flu Update: June 24

June 24, 2009

The current Swine Flu – A/H1N1 – situation can be summarized in two words:

We’re rollin’!

To say that it is all over the place is putting it mildly. Right here at home, The Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA) has decided to shut down its summer camps for the season, and 25% of the Swine Flu deaths have occurred in New York State. Trinidad and Tobago have given cruise ship vacationers check-ups at the dock (and found several cases of H1N1) and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu cancelled all of his meetings one day. Even the Saudi Arabians are worried, they fear that the flu will visit Mecca along with one of the faithful.

Remember when I told you that the flu would go dormant in the Northern Hemisphere as Summer began but intensify in the Southern Hemisphere? That turned out to only be partially true – it is going pretty strong in the Southern Hemisphere but it is also active in the Northern Hemisphere, well into summer. Canada’s Aboriginal populations, known as the First Nations, is taking a hard hit from the Swine Flu. Revere over at the blog Effect Measure has been studying a chart from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) that shows there have been two flu seasons this year:  The “normal” flu strains have almost all gone away, the only thing left is H1N1.

On the good side, we’ve been able to learn a few things from our first encounter with this beast. We also have a new flu tracking resource from NewsNow. This one is good, it monitors web based news sites for any reference to Swine Flu and updates every five minutes. And since it is based in the United Kingdom, NewsNow monitors sources that Americans may not be aware of. But it can generate a lot of information, so don’t let it scare you.

Getting that flu shot (if it is recommended for you) this fall will be imperative.