(Read: Season Flu, not Influenza)
Last weekend I was finishing up a clinic shift, and just as I was saying goodbye to my last patient, I noticed a tightness in my muscles that I couldn’t relieve by stretching. As I was wrapping up my office work, became a chill. “Uh oh, I know this… this is the Flu” (Not influenza, but something viral) I happened to be working out of Nipawin at the time, and I wanted to get home to Saskatoon so I popped a Tylenol so that I would be alert on the road. (There’s a time and a place for suppressive treatment) I stayed well hydrated with sugars, electrolytes, and vitamins while on the 3 hour drive home and by the time I arrived the Tylenol was wearing off and my state was steadily declining. I got into cozy clothing and collapsed on the couch and was in a feverish stupor, chilled and achy, (I’m leaving out some of the grosser details) till the next morning when the fever broke around 4:00AM. Doesn’t sound very fun, does it? Well, I loved it.
The Sickness is the Cure
What happened was that I had been infected with a virus. My body recognized this and, being in decent health, mounted an immune response against it. Now you’re immune system is an energy hungry machine, and there’s only so much energy to go around, so your body starts routing that energy from other places so that it can have priority fighting off the infection. “Digestion? Don’t need that – vomit everything up for a while so we can close shop. Muscles? Nope. Let’s curl up in a ball and stop replenishing electrolytes, it’s alright that you feel achey. Brain? Nah fam, you don’t need to think right now, so let’s use that energy too.” The point is that you don’t feel terrible because of the virus… and your body isn’t trying to punishing you, it’s just that your immune system is the priority, not your higher functioning, and that’s healthy. We want to encourage this process by allowing ourselves to feel like junk, so that our immune system can fight the good fight. I only took Tylenol to slow it down for a while so that I could get home safe, but then let it take complete hold of me knowing that feeling bad was good for me.
Don’t Subdue Vitality
The next day I was feeling much better: not “run a marathon” better, but I felt relatively normal compared to the day before. My immune system had done its thing, and guess what? My sense of smell was more acute. I had a low-level sinus infection for a month that was improved after my super-charged immune system did a little bit of house keeping. Had I taken more Tylenol for the fever/aches, or Gravol for the nausea I would have been decreasing my immune system, and stopping my body from doing some house-cleaning. I also would have given it more things for the liver to have to metabolize, which takes energy away from where my body wants it: My immune system. So it turns out I don’t feel awful because of the bug, and that my body knows just what to do when I get sick… go figure!