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by Jukka Valkonen, RN, PHN, and World Class Athlete
We're well into flu season and it's no joke this year. Last month, the CDC issued a high alert for a particular variant of H1N1 that packs a powerful respiratory punch. Children and adults had been hospitalized and deaths had been reported. While the CDC states that this year's flu shot is a 60% match to the strains going around, not everyone gets the vaccine. This article won't get into that controversial topic. Instead, we'll learn about ways to manage your health once you have the flu, and how to get yourself back to your usual life once the flu has run its course.
First, let's consider the affects the flu has on your body:
Because we feel so bad when we have the flu, many seek medical attention, either at the medical office, clinic, or emergency room. As a nurse who has worked in the ED, trauma, critical care and office settings, I've seen and treated many flu patients. So what did I and the physician do? Not much. With severe cases, IV fluids may be necessary. Antibiotics aren't effective. However, as a 30 year multisport veteran, I apply those experiences to how I manage my health when I get the flu. Here's what I do:
I've also used a SleepTracker watch for many years. The most accurate device uses a sensor that picks up fine tremor of the long tendon in the wrist when you're having an almost awake moment. When you're sick, your sleep cycles are totally messed up including having very short durations in deep, restorative sleep. As you begin to feel better, your sleep cycles will also begin to balance. Having a device like this allows you to anticipate when you may be ready for some light activity like a short walk. I believe walking is the best form of activity for recovery. It doesn't kick in your stress response, thus no cortisol release. It moves the body, gets the cardio-respiratory system engaged, and gives you an indicator whether you're ready for other activity like biking, jogging, and even swimming. For those of us who train for and compete in events greater than an hour, walking an hour without feeling fatigued is a great test to see if we are ready to resume training.
Having the flu isn't fun but it's part of life. By learning how to manage your health while you are sick will teach you things you can do to manage your health during extended training and racing. This confidence will help you get past those dark moments during training or racing where you think you may want to quit. Just like the doctor's office, quitting is an option, but all it gets you is a pat on the back with "you'll feel better."