Ears, Nose and Throat, Healthy Living, Immune System, Infectious Diseases

Warning: Cold and Flu Season Ahead

Flu Pandemic in the Philippines in 2009

It’s the rainy season again, which also marks the cold and flu season in the Philippines. There is no better way to beat these viruses than an ounce of prevention, so I chose to re-post an informative article written by Nick Peterson on “Scientifically Speaking: What’s the Cold Got to Do with It?”. I did a few editing to make the article appropriate for a tropical country setting.

Although, there is no winter in the Philippines and the viruses do not reach their gel state, flu spreads fast during the rainy season because of the cooler temperature, and the increased humidity and moisture of the air. Therefore, the air droplets easily carry viruses and transfers them from person to person. Another obvious reason is that the cooler season tends to dry up the mucosal cavities of the mouth and nose, making them a good breeding ground for viruses or bacteria for that matter.

On another note, if you ask me what is my position on whether to stay at home or to go out during the cold and flu season? I’d say, I had better stay at home, as long as, I am sure there is no carrier of the virus in our household.

“People with flu can spread it to others up to about 6 feet away. Most experts think that flu viruses are spread mainly by droplets made when people with flu cough, sneeze or talk. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs. Less often, a person might also get flu by touching a surface or object that has flu virus on it and then touching their own mouth or nose.” – Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

An article by Nick Peterson, which was originally posted at What’s Up, Usana?

This month’s edition of Scientifically Speaking goes out to all the moms and dads who’ve warned their children throughout the years about exposure to the cold weather, which will inevitably lead to “catching a cold,” right?

Seriously though, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve started to wonder if my mom was just duping me the whole time. Both a cold and the flu are caused by viral infections, so what in the heck does cold weather have to do with anything?

It looks like we’ve stumbled across a great topic for Scientifically Speaking. I did a little digging and — as always — got a few leads from our expert scientists. I’d like to say I’ve got a solid answer for you guys, but there seems to be some difference of opinion within the medical community. Let’s break down my findings, shall we?


Cold vs. Flu

Cold versus Flu

Before we dive into all the cold weather talk, let’s discuss what a cold actually is. With more than 200 viruses causing it, the common cold is a viral infectious disease that usually leads to symptoms such as coughing, sore throat, runny nose, and sneezing.

The most common virus strands that cause a cold are rhinoviruses, and all of those nasty symptoms you experience are actually a result of your body’s immune response to the infection rather than the deterioration of tissue that the actual virus causes. In more extreme cases, the virus causing your cold can lead to viral or bacterial pneumonia.

The flu, or influenza, is also a respiratory infection, but it’s caused specifically by influenza viruses and usually leads to more severe symptoms such as fever, body aches, chills and headaches. There are three different types of flu viruses, all of which humans are susceptible to.

What the Experts Say

The National Institutes of Health uncovered some evidence that might back up your parent’s argument to keep warm during the cold season. These findings are specifically associated with the flu virus and its outer covering, or envelope.

The study showed that colder temperatures (in case of areas with winter – near or below freezing), cause the flu virus to form a rubbery, gel-like covering that shields the virus, allowing for easier transfer from person to person. Once the virus enters the body, usually through mucus membranes in the mouth, nose or eyes, it reaches warmer temperatures in the respiratory tract and causes the covering to melt. The virus’ outer covering then reaches a liquid phase, allowing it to infect the cells of its new host.

On the flip side, during warmer seasons the temperature is too high for the viral membrane to enter its gel state. Because of this, flu viruses often can’t withstand the elements and will dry out and weaken, leading to the end of “flu season.” This led the scientists to wonder whether people might better protect themselves against the flu by remaining indoors at warmer temperatures than usual.

What the Other Experts Say

According to other experts, staying indoors might be the worst thing you can do for yourself throughout the colder season. A leading theory is that confinement breeds infection.

“In winter, we spend more time indoors, in rooms that may not get a lot of circulation, giving us more opportunities to be exposed to respiratory viruses,” says William Schaffner, M.D., chairman of the department of preventive medicine at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in Nashville, in this Real Simple article.

Additionally, Schaffner adds, the winter air, inside and outside, also tends to be less humid, drying nasal passages and making them more vulnerable to viral invasion.

What You Can Do

Flu Prevention Tips

These are only two opinions on the subject, but there’s a lot of information out there. Do some investigating yourself to see what the research tells us.

In the meantime, the best thing you can do to fight that cold or flu virus is take preventative measures that support a healthy immune system. Evidence suggests that a healthy dose of both vitamin C and zinc may help. Deficiency in either of these may make individuals more susceptible to impaired immune response. Healthy adults generally need at least 75–90 mg of vitamin C and 8–11 mg of zinc per day to avoid severe deficiency.

Another important way to protect yourself from a virus is to avoid any kind of hand-to-face contact. Typically, a virus enters through hand-to-eye, -nose, or -mouth transmission. And of course, don’t forget to take the obvious precautions: healthy diet and exercise, sufficient amounts of sleep, disinfecting germ-susceptible areas, and regularly washing hands.

Media Credits:
Flu Season Ahead:
Monsoon Rains:
Woman with Flu:
Flu Prevention Tips:
Cold versus Flu:

Circulatory System, Digestive System, Healthy Living, Infectious Diseases

Things I Have Learned from My Hospital Admission: The Dangers of a Second Episode of Dengue Fever

Getting admitted in the hospital is never easy, and it’s even worse when you’ve never had it in ages. The last time I was confined was when I gave birth to my son who is now turning 18 in a few months. As a nurse, I am very comfortable inside the hospital giving my health instructions, but to be in the receiving end is a whole new story.

Although the experience was devastating, the lessons should be carefully considered to benefit not just myself and my family, but also you who are reading this. I have taken note of all the lessons I learned from this experience and I hope you can pick up something worthwhile for yourself.

Me Thinking

Things I Have Learned from my Second Episode of Dengue Fever:

Dengue Warning Signs

The first time I had Dengue Fever was when I was 3 or 4 years old. Then I had typhoid fever, which is a family of Enteric Fever but from a different strain back when I was a nursing student 2 decades ago. I was admitted in the hospital on both occasions and in both episodes what was vivid in my memory was that I am not allowed to eat any dark colored foods. The reason being was that in both illnesses there is danger of bleeding. Here are my notes:

  1. Healthy living saved me from the worst complications: I was in the pink of health when this happened as I was eating healthy food choices and doing regular exercise. This means that my immune system was also working for me. Had I been in the worst condition, my recovery could have been longer and I could have bled profusely.
  2. Second cases of Dengue Fever can get worse than the first: I was told that I can never have the same strain of Dengue viral infection, which is not good because, a person who succumbs the first time develops antibodies. These antibodies remain dormant until a person gets another exposure to a different strain of Dengue. This means that my second infection could have been severe in terms of tendency to bleed and poor recovery.
  3. Dengue Fever can trigger other illnesses to surface: This explains why my Enteric Fever came in later.

Health Tips:

  1. Healthy lifestyle with regular exercise and nutritious balanced diet boosts your immune system and aids your body to get rid of the virus and bacteria in no time. Viruses are self-limiting, meaning there is no cure, but a healthy body generates more antibodies to fight them off. Bacteria, on the other hand, needs antibiotics, but with a healthy immune system, the antibiotics work faster too.
  2. If you’ve had Dengue Fever before, avoid places where there are known cases. Have your insect repellant handy all the time.
  3. Careful handling of food is crucial, especially of eggs and chicken. Both typhoid fever and enteric fever are caused by salmonella infection from different species. A previous infection builds antibodies in your system that’s why exposure to even the smallest amount of the bacteria can trigger a speedy infection process.
  4. Salmonella can be seen in any food products but are commonly found in eggs and chicken. Handling tips: wash the eggs in running water before storing them in your fridge, crack eggs in a separate container, so if one is spoiled it cannot contaminate the others, throw a spoiled egg immediately and get a new container to crack the next ones.
  5. Hand washing as often as necessary can save you and your family from the horrors of having a disease.
  6. Buy chicken, eggs and other food products only from reliable sources.

WHO DHF Guidelines:
Second Case of Dengue:
Typhoid and Enteric Fever: Harrison’s Principles of Internal Medicine, 17th Edition

Bible Everyday, Cardiovascular System, Circulatory System, Daily Inspiration, Digestive System, Infectious Diseases, Matters of the Heart, You are Loved

I Am Back!

Praise God I am back!

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The last two weeks had been a very challenging time for me and my family. I was discharged from the hospital last Sunday, March 1 due to dengue and enteric fever. Who would have thought I would have 2 diseases at the same time? After discharge, I was advised to take at least 7-10 days of rest, and I took it very seriously. I spent the whole of last week sleeping, eating and relaxing. I needed to do that so I can completely recover. I finished the last dose of my medication on Tuesday, March 3 and was out to meet with some dear friends yesterday. I am definitely back!

This experience was like a horrible nightmare for me because I never thought I’d fill in the shoes of a patient. I am so used to being the nurse telling my patients, “sorry this is gonna hurt a bit” or that “ma’am its important do this for your health”. Now I am on the receiving end, and the worst part was, to be woken up almost every 2 hours because of my vital signs, medications or blood extractions!

Despite all the troubles though, this past 2 weeks was also a time for many realizations. It made me see that there is so much to be thankful for: my dad and mom, brothers Ronald and Ruel and their wives who ask for updates at every chance they get, my sister Ingrid and her husband Mon who traveled a long way just to check on me, my in-laws: mother in law, brother in law (Rey) and especially my sister in law, Marissa and her husband Kuya Ariel who arranged everything from the time of my admission until I was discharged from the hospital, and my Victory Greenhills family who never stopped covering me in prayers during my ordeal. I truly thank my God for all of you!

Most of all, I would like to honor my husband for all the love, care and nurturing he lavished me with, in spite of the sleepless nights, painful back and legs and his own health failing. I love you even more; you are God’s hands here on earth for me.

And, to the One who is my strong tower, whom I owe everything and who has kept me safe – I will praise you in whatever circumstances! You deserve the glory not because You answered our prayers, but because You are You.

For you are my safe refuge, a fortress where my enemies cannot reach me. Psalm 61:3

Let me tell you about my lowest and weakest moment on the second night at the hospital when I felt a strong sense of desperation. It was after my platelet dived at 41 at 4PM on the first day then soared high at 190 at 7AM the following day. I was so ecstatic and overjoyed because of the sudden shoot up of my platelet, but only to be utterly disappointed because at 3PM it dived again at 83. I was out of reason because my medical knowledge of the disease was that once the platelet recovers, it will continue to rise until it reaches its normal level. The doctor was also doubtful so she ordered a screening test and that was when we found out that I not only have dengue but I also tested positive for enteric fever. Dengue is a viral infection while enteric fever is bacterial. I felt like the whole world just crumbled. I felt a sense of dread because both illnesses can cause bleeding, and with my state, I knew it can happen anytime. That night I pleaded with God and asked so many people to pray for me. His Word kept me company and gave me the spark of hope I needed. I am so glad I memorized this chapter and have kept it locked inside my heart. It lulled me to sleep as I recited His word over and over in my head…

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A psalm of David:
The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside quiet waters, He restores my soul. He guides me in the path of righteousness for His Name’s sake. Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely Your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. (‭Psalm‬ ‭23‬:‭1-6‬ NIV)

Infectious Diseases

Dengue Outbreak: What to do?

Dengue Statistics

I posted this article as a reminder and a warning after typhoon Glenda hit the Philippines in July this year. Today, I am re-posting it to give some information for the Japanese locals who have not had an outbreak of this deadly virus in the last 70 years.

We Filipinos are so used to an outbreak of Dengue because every year thousands are hit and hundreds die from it. Last year’s statistics alone recorded 42,207 cases from January to June (Department of Health Records).

Things You Need to Know About Dengue

White-Spotted Aedes Aegypti Mosquito

Dengue Fever is caused by a virus that is commonly transmitted by the female “Aedes Aegypti” mosquito.  It is a manageable disease especially when diagnosed early. However, with late management it has the potential to progress into a life threatening situation.

The common symptoms of Dengue include: sudden fever with no known cause, headache, muscle and joint pains, body weakness, appearance of red ball-point rashes, mouth or nose bleeding, nausea, vomiting and in some cases diarrhea. In infants and children, they may show signs of irritation, crying spells, loss of appetite and lack of interest for play.

There  are three stages of the disease: (1) Febrile Stage is when the fever reaches up to 40 °C (104 °F) or higher and the other other accompanying symptoms appear, (2) Critical Stage usually occurs when the fever resolves, which many people mistake as the resolution phase. It is critical because this is when the blood plasma shifts outside of the bloodstream and accumulates inside the lungs or abdominal cavity. The platelet levels also become dangerously low at this stage that may cause moderate to severe bleeding. This stage can progress to “dengue shock syndrome” and in severe cases death, but if fluid is replaced immediately and bleeding controlled, it may proceed to the recovery phase. (3) Recovery Stage occurs immediately after the platelet levels begin to increase and the fluid levels normalize.

The most important thing to do is to seek medical help at the first sign of fever especially if there is an outbreak in your area. Dengue fever can easily be determined by a simple blood test.

Dengue Prevention Tips

The old saying that prevention is better than cure is highly recommended in Dengue Fever. The most common concern is to eradicate breeding places for mosquitoes that carry the virus. Follow these simple prevention tips:

1. Mosquitoes breed in water that is why Dengue outbreak is common in the rainy season. So remove breeding places of mosquito such as your flower pots and vases whether inside or outside the house, keep your garden clean, cover all water containers in the house, dispose garbage regularly, clean your roof gutters and dispose unused bottles and cans. It is also a good investment to put screens around your house.

2. When going out, wear clothes that cover the most part of your body, and avoid dark colored ones as they tend to attract mosquitoes. Wear socks and closed shoes too, instead of slippers and sandals.

3. Avoid the outdoors if there is an outbreak and keep away from places where cases have been reported; include hospitals and clinics in your list. If it can be avoided, do so, unless you’re the one who needs medical attention.

4. Insect repellants come in very handy. In children, put a small amount of the solution on the edges of their clothes instead of applying directly on their skin.

5. Lastly, protect yourself by eating healthy, exercising regularly and having enough sleep.

Again, a the first sign of fever and other symptoms, immediately consult a health professional. Stay safe! irmz