Fight the Flu

This week's Speedo tip of the week comes from National Team physician, Dr. Jim Miller. He offers some advice for fighting the flu in the coming championship season.

The Tip:
You have completed the dreaded intensive training of the holiday season and have two to four more months until your championship meet. Everything has been taken into account – your event schedule, your training and the best part – taper.

Is there anything that could mess all this up?  YOU BET! One to two weeks off with five pounds of muscle loss could surely derail this train. That is exactly what could happen with a bout of influenza, more commonly known as the Flu.

Open the window…and in flew enza
The flu is a viral infection that is spread through the air. Each year, the influenza virus mutates slightly so your immunity from the prior year will not completely protect you. The virus is a respiratory infection that can result in a debilitating viral pneumonia. It is very dangerous for those who have a weakened immune system, such as the elderly or someone with a disease that affects their immune system like diabetes.

However, if you are training doubles with long hours for studying for exams, your immune system could also be at risk. Since the air from a human sneeze has been clocked at hundreds of miles per hour, one sneeze from the wrong person at the wrong time will expose you quickly. You could be in trouble.

Prevention is key
So, what can you do to prevent the flu? The best prevention is to boost your immune system against this virus by getting a flu shot. This shot is ideally given one or two months before the virus reaches your part of the country. The shot will not offer you 100% immunity, but it decreases your likelihood of getting sick. If you do end up catching the virus, the course would be greatly abbreviated if you received the shot.  

Still, there is a problem here. It is January and parts of the country are already reporting cases of the flu.  Does a shot help now? That is a great question to which experts will disagree. But, if your area has not had cases yet, even a flu shot given two weeks in advance should give you some partial protection. And don’t wait so long next year!  

C your way through the Flu
In addition to the shot, there are other steps you can take to avoid getting sick. In addition to proper hydration, nutrition and sleep, some experts believe that increased Vitamin C intake may enhance your immune system against viral infections. It is suggested you take between 1,000 and 3,000 IU of extra Vitamin C per day, unless you are on a medication that interacts with Vitamin C. As always, consult your doctor before you begin taking any supplements.

Back to Basics
When it comes to the flu, there are some basic steps you can take to help prevent getting and spreading the virus. Wash your hands routinely and cover your mouth when coughing and sneezing – and of course wash your hands when you do if you did not make it to a tissue.  The antibiotic gels that do not require water work just fine.

Take if for the team
If you feel that you are coming down with a nasty respiratory infection whether it involves your lungs or not, get to your medical practitioner quickly. There are antiviral medications that make a big difference, if you start them quickly. Your medical expert also has a rapid test, which will help to determine whether this is influenza or not while you wait. By taking care of it quickly, you get better faster and your team and coaches will be more likely to stay healthy, too.  You do not want to take out your whole relay team with you!

For more health tips like these, sign up for USA Swimming Newsletter where Dr. Miller's advice is a regular feature. Click here to sign up now!

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