The signs are everywhere you look. Flu shots are being offered at every pharmacy, clinic and doctor’s office in town. Reports are that the 2012/’13 flu season was very bad. “Flu-related deaths range from 3,000 to 48,600 (average 23,600).” (www.flufacts.com/know/season.jsp) Will this year be worse? It is an exercise in sophisticated prediction projecting information regarding the upcoming season. Specific information, though, regarding the 2013 – 2014 year can be found on line at: www.cdc.gov/flu/about/season/index.htm
The Flu, a nickname for the technical term Influenza, is a respiratory infection that produces fever, chills, sore throat, muscle aches, and cough that lasts a week or more. The flu can be deadly for the elderly, the very young, and those with compromised immune systems (Source:www.nvic.org/vaccines-and-diseases/Influenza.aspx)
There’s no apparent reason why the Flu season is often when the weather outside is cooler. It’s just a characteristic of the infection and the timing of seasons in North America. “In a typical year, approximately 5 to 20 percent of the population gets the seasonal flu.www.flufacts.com/know/season.jsp
Why is it vitally important for our pain patients to be especially flu-aware? The most significant issue is that many over-the-counter headache, cough or cold medications also contain acetaminophen (Tylenol). If you are taking a prescribed pain medication it may likely contain acetaminophen such as in the case of the medicine “hydrocodone APAP.” It is easy to think that if you are always careful to take your pain medicine as prescribed, you don’t have to worry about overdosing on acetaminophen. However, if you take both a cold remedy and your pain medicine, you could be unintentionally overdosing on acetaminophen. “We tend to think of opioids as being potentially dangerous, but did you know that acetaminophen may actually be the most deadly ingredient in your pain medication? Even a single overdose of acetaminophen can permanently damage your liver, resulting in liver toxicity, liver failure and death.” Source: www.healthcentral.com/chronic-pain/cf/slideshows/7-things-you-didn-t-know-about-your-pain-medication/is-it-safe/?ic=8831
On a different note, here’s something interesting and helpful you can do for yourself and for others this flu season:
Participate in Flu Near You https://flunearyou.org a project run in partnership by Boston Children’s Hospital. Once you sign up you can anonymously submit your presence or absence of flu symptoms through a weekly survey and see a close to real time map of flu spread in your community and throughout North America.