The Flu - What Not to Do

Mar 22, 2018

By Trevor Shewfelt, Pharmacist at the Dauphin Clinic Pharmacy

"Dad, I really don't like being forgotten." I don't know how parents deal with 3, 4 or 5 kids. Apparently, Doris and I have trouble keeping track of two. You see I was going to drive Emily and teammates to hockey in Neepawa, and Doris was going to drop off Eric at the Rotary Rink and pick him up. But then Doris said Lionel said he'd take the girls to Neepawa. So, Doris dropped Eric off at the Rotary and went to bowling. Doris assumed since I wasn't going to Neepawa, I was going to get Eric. All I heard was Doris was dropping off and picking up Eric. Long story short, no one got Eric. And left the cell phone he normally has glued to him at home. So, Eric walked from the Rotary rink to the Kinsmen Aquatic Center to find a phone. Then I got told how much he likes being forgotten.

Some things are bad to forget, like your children. Some things it would be great for people to forget, like flu treatments that don't work. It has been a tough flu season. Lots of people have been sick, and unfortunately people are still getting sick. There seems to be the potential for flu outbreaks in our nursing homes, and the pharmacy is full of sick people lately.

What is the flu? The flu (or influenza) is a highly contagious respiratory viral illness. Its symptoms are similar to a cold, but flu symptoms are usually more severe and start very suddenly. Flu usually starts with a fever, dry cough, sore throat, sore joints and muscles, and exhaustion. Other symptoms can include headache and stuffy nose. An influenza cough is usually severe and can last two or more weeks. Fever and other symptoms usually resolve in 5 to 7 days. Influenza can be very difficult for doctors to diagnose because its symptoms are very similar to many other viral respiratory diseases and up to half the people who get the flu don't have typical symptoms.

Influenza can spread easily from one person to another through coughing, sneezing or sharing food and drinks. You can also get the flu by touching objects contaminated with flu virus and then touching your mouth, eyes or nose. That is why hand washing is so important to prevent the spread of the flu. It is also recommended that you cough or sneeze into your elbow, sleeve or into a tissue. Finally, if you are sick with the flu, stay at home to avoid infecting other people. If you get worse or have trouble breathing, see your doctor or go to the emergency room.

My wish list of things for people to forget include, two popular herbal remedies for the flu, elderberry and Oscillococcium. Elderberry is a natural product that has been studied against the flu. It might actually reduce flu symptoms and duration of the flu if started within 48 hours of the onset of illness. And there seems to be limited evidence of harm with elderberry. So, what is the problem? Most products you can buy don't come anywhere near the 22 g/day of elderberry that were used in the study. So, the elderberry products you buy are probably a waste of money. And don't try to cook up elderberry syrup at home. The plant has a cyanide-producing chemical in it that can be toxic if not cooked properly. Forget elderberry for flu.

Oscillococcium is a homeopathic remedy. By definition, homeopathic medications have been diluted so much they don't have any active ingredients in them. By definition, homeopathic products are placebos. So again, there is no chance of harm, but there isn't any active ingredient in them to do any good either. Forget Oscillococcium and save your money.

If you have the flu, what should you do? Stay home for a few days, rest and drink plenty of fluids. If you are really sick, see the doctor. They could give you an antiviral medication like Tamiflu of oseltamivir. A recent survey said, ">99% of all Canadian influenza strains have been sensitive to the antiviral drug oseltamivir or zanamivir." However, Tamiflu isn't as effective as you may want it to be. It must be started within 2 days of the start of flu symptoms and it will only reduce the length of your symptoms by 1.3 days. But it does reduce the chance of hospitalization, especially in the elderly.

If there isn't much help once you get the flu, can you avoid it? Yes, wash your hands. But, the best way to avoid getting the flu is to get the flu shot. For most people the flu is an annoying few days off of work or school. But, some people can get really sick, go to hospital or even die of flu complications. Although not perfect, your best defence against the flu is still the flu shot.

A friend of mine and I had a spirited discussion about selecting one good object from a bunch of sub-par objects. We were discussing whether this was "Cherry Picking" or "Jerry Picking". At work a colleague was convinced when several things were accomplished in quick succession they were done in "one fowl swoop", not "one fell swoop." These aren't bad examples of forgetting, but mondegreens are examples of when forgetting is fantastic and hilarious. Mondegreens are misheard song lyrics. Some great ones are:

"There's a bathroom on the right." instead of "There's a bad moon on the rise." from Bad Moon Rising by CCR; and "The girl with colitis goes by." instead of "The girl with kaleidoscope eyes." from Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds by The Beatles. So Eric, unlike forgetting your child at a hockey rink, sometimes forgetting is great and entertaining. Now like Jimi Hendrix said in Purple Haze, "Excuse me while I kiss this guy."

As always if you have any questions or concerns about these or other products, ask your pharmacist.

The information in this article is intended as a helpful guide only. It is not intended to be used as a substitute for professional advice. If you have any questions about your medications and what is right for you see your doctor, pharmacist or other health care professional.

We now have this and most other articles published in the Parkland Shopper on our Website. Please visit us at

Manitoba Health Influenza Page -


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