Flu Prevention and the Gym Member

Health officials’ warning this month of a potentially harsh flu season should be a red flag to avid aerobic-bunnies and gym-jocks alike. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) warn that the flu is transmitted when flu virus in the air is inhaled after an infected person coughs, sneezes, or speaks. Transmission also occurs when a person touches a surface that has flu virus on it and then touches his or her nose or mouth. Those familiar with the typical health club milieu, then, can easily liken a workout in the gym to sitting in a veritable Petry dish…

Heavy-breathing members on closely-placed cardiovascular machines and in crowded group fitness classes, hundreds of kinds of shared equipment from dumbbells and weight plates to public restrooms and the corner water fountain provide countless opportunities for contact with the flu virus. So, short of ditching our fitness goals until mid-Spring, it would do us well to learn more about the flu, it’s prevention, and what we can do about it.

What is the flu?

The flu, or influenza, is a contagious disease caused by the influenza virus. It attacks the respiratory tract in humans (nose, throat, and lungs). The flu is different from a cold; it usually comes on suddenly and may include these symptoms:

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Tiredness (can be extreme)
  • Dry cough
  • Sore Throat
  • Nasal congestion
  • Body aches

About 10% to 20% of U.S. residents will get the flu each year. Among these persons infected, an average of 36,000 will die, and 114,000 will be hospitalized. Although the CDC claims it is not possible to accurately predict the severity of the flu season, this year’s early incidence of Type A flu strain is historically associated with a more severe flu season, including higher numbers of related hospitalizations and deaths. To make the outlook more grim, an epidemiological assessment by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) already reports “widespread” influenza activity in over 10 U.S. states.

Who is at risk?

Although anyone can get the flu, including individuals who are healthy, there are various groups who are at higher risk for complications. These high risk groups include:

  • persons aged > 50 years;
  • residents of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities that house persons of any age who have long-term illnesses;
  • adults and children > 6 months of age who have chronic heart or lung conditions, including asthma;
  • adults and children > 6 months of age who need regular medical care or had to be in a hospital because of metabolic diseases (like diabetes), chronic kidney disease, or weakened immune system (including immune system problems caused by medicine or by infection with human immunodeficiency virus [HIV/AIDS]);
  • children and teenagers (aged 6 months to 18 years) who are on long-term aspirin therapy and therefore could develop Reye Syndrome after the flu; and
  • women who will be more than 3 months pregnant during the flu season.

How to Prevent Getting the Flu

Health officials are encouraging people, particularly those in high-risk groups to obtain a flu shot. The CDC states that an annual flu shot is the best way to reduce the chances that you will get the flu.

The best time to get a flu shot is from October through November, although you can still benefit from getting the vaccine after November, even if the flu is present in your community. Be aware that it takes about two weeks after the vaccination for antibodies to develop in the body to provide protection.

Obtaining the vaccine does not guarantee a flu-free season, however. Influenza viruses are constantly changing, and vaccine effectiveness depends on the match between vaccine strains and circulating viruses and the age and health status of the person getting the shot. Although the strain in this year’s flu vaccine is different from the circulating strain, the CDC states that studies indicate that the vaccine should provide some cross-protection against the circulating A strain.

Some people resist getting the flu shot because of the belief that they will get severe side effects, or even the flu itself, from the vaccine. The viruses in the vaccine are inactivated, so you cannot get the flu from a flu shot. Certain side effects are possible, such as soreness, redness, or swelling where the shot was given, fever (low grade), and aches.

Chances that the shot will cause serious harm, or death, is very small and allergic reactions to the vaccine, though possible, are rare, states the CDC. Most people who get the vaccine have no serious problems with it. However, the following groups should not get a flu shot before talking with their doctor:

  • People with an allergy to hens’ eggs.
  • People who have had a severe reaction to a flu shot in the past.
  • People who have developed Guillian-Barre Syndrome in the 6 weeks following a flu shot.

Since obtaining vaccination doesn’t necessarily guarantee immunity against the flu, it is wise to add common sense to our prevention efforts while we are busy pumping iron at the health club. Old fashioned hand-hygiene can go a long way in helping to prevent flu transmission. Although you don’t want to spend your entire workout running to the restroom to wash your hands after every set, it’s certainly advisable to make sure your hands are clean before and after the workout. Refrain from touching your nose and mouth during the workout to avoid obtaining the virus. Use of hand-antiseptics which include alcohol can also help to prevent transmission of the flu virus.

What to do if you get the flu

So what if you obtain a flu shot, practice stellar hand-hygiene and manage to contract the flu anyway? Since it is impossible to tell if you have the flu based on symptoms alone, visit your doctor. Tests can be performed in the first few days of the illness to determine the diagnosis. Since influenza is caused by a virus, antibiotics won’t work to cure it. You need to rest, drink plenty of fluids, avoid using alcohol and tobacco, and possibly take medication to relieve symptoms.

The CDC warns never to give aspirin to children or teenagers who have flu-like symptoms, particularly fever, without speaking to your doctor. Doing so can cause a rare but serious illness called Reye syndrome.

By all accounts, we may be in store for a particularly harsh flu season this year. Take precaution to reduce the likelihood of getting the flu, particularly if you are an avid gym-goer. Preventative measures may not only help to avoid the flu, but also interrupting hard earned progress on your fitness goals.

For more information about the flu, it’s transmission, prevention and treatment, check out the CDC website at http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/diseases/flu/

Genital Herpes Symptoms and Treatment

Genital herpes is one of the most common sexually transmitted diseases in the world today. It is caused by the herpes simplex virus.  This is the family of viruses that causes cold sores, shingles, and chicken pox. 

Genital herpes is caused by infection with the herpes simplex2 virus (HSV2). HSV1 is the virus that causes cold sores on the lips and nose area. The herpes virus, however, is not too particular about the mucous membrane it calls home and will happily live in either the mucous membranes of the mouth and lip area or the reproductive tract.  Because of this, oral genital contact can spread either HSV1, HSV2. Viral transmission can occur from the mouth to the genitals or from the genitals to the mouth. The blister type lesions caused by either virus are virtually identical.

Genital Herpes Symptoms

Sometimes after the initial infection there may be fever and general malaise as could be seen with any acute viral infection but this is not always apparent in all cases.  In fact the symptoms of a genital herpes infection may not be known to you until you see some blisters on or around your genital area. 

This is called an outbreak and is characteristic of the way the herpes virus acts in the body. There will be periods when the virus is dormant and none of the characteristic symptoms of genital herpes are present.  Then there will be these outbreak periods where blisters appear in the genital area and may even extend to the anal area. 

The blisters will act like any normal cold sore on the lips.  They come up with an initial tingling, then grow larger and spread and eventually burst leaving an ulceration that will slowly heal on its own.

In men these blisters occur on or around the penis.  In women the blisters may actually be in the vagina as well as on the surrounding genital area. 

Symptoms of genital herpes will come and go but the virus stays with you forever. The number of outbreaks will gradually become less and less and in some cases, some people do not see outbreaks at all.   

Diagnosis

You may not know you have contracted genital herpes until the first breakout of the blisters. Symptoms of genital herpes are so mild in some people they think they just have a skin irritation.  The best thing to do is to be checked by a doctor so that you can get diagnosed properly. 

Doctors can usually make the diagnosis based on inspection of the genital area as the lesions are quite specific in appearance.  In some instances the doctor may take a swab on the blister fluid to see if it contains the virus.

Genital Herpes Treatment

There is no cure for genital herpes, however, it can be controlled so that you can live a normal sexually active life.  Anti-viral medications are often prescribed at the first outbreak to knock back the infection and may be used for prolonged periods if outbreaks are frequent.

Other treatments for the discomfort of an outbreak are common sense measures such as wearing loose comfortable clothing, using cold compresses or soothing creams and ointments on the blisters.

A strong and healthy immune system is needed to keep the virus suppressed and to reduce the frequency of outbreaks. Health denying habits such as smoking, drug use, or toxic relationships will drain the resources of your immune system so your best method of treatment is to maintain good health.  This would include eating whole nourishing foods, getting plenty of exercise, and managing stress. 

Complications

Generally the herpes simplex virus is not considered a dangerous infection to persons who have a fully functioning immune system. The virus will be suppressed and outbreaks will not be common as long as the immune system is functioning well.

However, if the immune system becomes burdened or compromised in any way then outbreaks will be more likely to occur.  This may happen during times of physical or emotional stress.  If the immune system is comprised by other more serious illnesses such as HIV or cancer then the herpes virus can become more dangerous.

If the virus is directly transmitted to other areas such as the eyes, or the brain, complications can be very serious. This direct transmission can happen in a number of ways but the most common is during the birth process.  The infant can become infected with the virus from contact with the mother’s vagina during birth.

If you suspect you may have contracted a genital herpes infection see your doctor as soon as possible.  Never have sex during an outbreak and never have unprotected sex. This means using a condom  (either male or female type)  during every sexual encounter even during oral sex. 

Additionally you should always inform your partner of your herpes status.  This is always the right thing to do.

Identify Male Yeast Infection Symptoms

If you were under the impression that only women suffer from candida yeast infection then you would be surprised that men may also suffer from this problem. It is important to identify male yeast infection symptoms because sexual intercourse is one of the ways in which this infection gets transmitted.

Candida is normally known to infect the skin, mouth, colon and the genitals. However most often it is either the vagina in the case of women and penile infection in the case of women that causes a lot of discomfort.

Some of the very common male infection symptoms are itching, irritation and mild pain in the penis head. One may also have pain while urinating. The penis may have redness along with some blisters.

It is always better to visit a doctor to get proper diagnosis and testing done to confirm the presence of this infection rather than self diagnosis. This is important because some of the male yeast infection symptoms are very similar to genital herpes and other sexually transmitted diseases.

Once the problem is confirmed then a natural remedy or one of the home remedies can be tried out. Home remedies used for vaginal candida infection work for the penile infection also. Yogurt and garlic can be used externally as well as consumed orally to get relief from this problem.

If is always recommended to stay away from sex if even one of the partners is infected. Alternately one can use a condom for sexual intercourse to prevent the   transmission  of the infection. In fact both partners should get a diagnosis done and take steps to prevent candida infection.

Preventive steps like wearing cotton undergarments, avoiding soaps with chemicals, changing wet clothes quickly, avoiding perfumes and deodorants in the genitals, avoiding sugar, bread, pickles, preserved mushrooms and other items that have yeast in any form should be avoided. This can help in controlling the problem.

If you are using natural treatment for male yeast infection symptoms along with conventional medicines then it is better to discuss this with your doctor. Sometimes natural herbs can interfere with conventional medicines.

One more important step is to not consume antibiotics for correcting this problem. Repeated use of antibiotics is known to aggravate the problem after a brief period of relief. It has been noted that the candida organism develops resistance to antibiotics after some time. Using time tested and proven natural remedies is the best solution for this problem in the long term.