Fitness at the Beach: What's Bugging You?
by Rick Moore
I was home sick with "the bug" for nearly a week, and Im not talking about the Y2K bug (lets worry about that one later). It seems that our friends, families, and customers have been in the same situation this year. I cant remember so many people being sick at once. Its so severe, its affected the schools and many businesses.
Whats puzzling to me is, what is the real definition of "the bug?" More than likely, it could be bronchitis, pneumonia, influenza, sinusitis, intestinal "distress," or just a plain average cold.
How do you know what you have? In the past, most people didnt care. They would just call their family doctor to get an antibiotic, and the doctor was happy to oblige. After all, what harm could an antibiotic do? As it turns out, plenty. If youre suffering from a virus, an antibiotic wont work, and will cost you money.
It will also have another side effect when taken unnecessarilyit can cause the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. This is particularly dangerous, because it means that tried-and-true antibiotics wont work in the future. Were hearing more and more stories about people who die from "flesh eating bacteria" (a scary onesomeone in Wilmington just died from this) and from other diseases that used to be easy to cure. I even read an article that said those popular "antibacterial" kitchen cleaners and soaps are a big part of the problem theyre like spreading antibiotics all over your house.
Most doctors, though, are getting more reluctant to over-prescribe antibiotics. They usually make you trudge into the office these days to get examined. But believe it or not, they still make mistakes. In patients that later prove to have viral influenza, doctors will make a diagnosis of a bacterial illness like sinusitis, pharyngitis or bronchitis 60% of the time. The result? Unnecessary treatment with antibiotics. Our society has gotten into the habit of demanding a "quick fix."
So whats wrong with you? What you have might be totally different from what you think you have. Very often, its caused by a virus. It could be a cold that includes some combination of sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, hoarseness, swollen glands, and fever. One symptom usually starts before the others, and some symptoms might remain after the others have disappeared. For instance, your hoarseness or cough could feel like they go on forever (and ever).
With the flu (also viral), you may have all of those symptoms, but you may also have a high fever, severe headache, muscle ache, and pain that may settle in one spot, especially in the lower back and the eye muscles.
If you have "stomach flu," or gastroenteritis, the virus may cause nausea, vomiting, the big "D" (diarrhea), and abdominal pain and cramps. You could have any combination of symptoms with a cold or with the flu.
Bacterial infections CAN be treated with antibiotics. Symptoms include fever, cough, raising sputum, and a single complaint (such as sore throat, earache, sinus pain, or cough). If you have a sore throat caused by the streptococcus bacteria (strep throat), it is considered more serious and can lead to rheumatic fever or kidney disease if left untreated.
Bronchitis seems to be the most common ailment, affecting over 12 million Americans a year. It is an inflammation of the bronchi and bronchial tubes, which are large delicate tubes in the lungs. Acute bronchitis can be caused by viruses and bacteria, and brings fever, chest pain, severe coughing, and often the secretion of thick green or yellow mucus. Yucky-poo!
Pneumonia is probably one of the more dangerous diseases people get this time of year. It is a build-up of fluid in the lungs caused by infection from bacteria, viruses, or other organisms. It prevents normal breathing, but most forms of bacterial pneumonia can be effectively treated with antibiotics. There is even a vaccine available for high-risk people.
Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia, caused by a normally harmless protozoan, is the most common cause of death in people with AIDS. It can also occur in people with leukemia or others with impaired immune systems.
Sinusitis is another big problem. Sinuses are cavities in the facial bones that are lined with mucous membranes and that open into the nasal cavity. Sinuses are often infected by bacteria, causing inflammation which produces severe pain.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, we should take these bacterial and viral infections very seriously. In 1918 the Spanish Flu killed 500,000 people, and in 1957-58, the Asian Flu killed 70,000 in the U.S. alone. The Type A Sidney virus, new in the 1997-98 flu season, was responsible for almost double the average number of deaths, estimated at 20,000. The experts say we are overdue for another major epidemic.
You may think its "just the flu," but 90 million cases are reported in the U.S. each year (the total population is only about 270 million). Over 150,000 of these people are hospitalized, and the total cost in medical care, lost productivity, and wages is over $10 billion per year. Influenza virus in humans is spread through respiratory secretions like coughing and sneezing. This contaminates the air, hands, and surfaces of our environment, passing it on to the next person. It takes 1-4 days to incubate before you get sick. The peak season is from January through March.
So make sure you take good care of yourself this winter so youll be ready for sun and fun this summer.
Rick Moore is a personal trainer certified by the American Fitness Professionals & Associates. He believes in common-sense, drug-free training. Visit him at Ricks Fitness & Health, Inc., in beautiful downtown Milton. Check out his website at http://www.enrapt.com/ricksfitness, or give him a call at (302) 684-3669.
LETTERS From CAMP Rehoboth, Vol. 9, No. 2, March 12, 1999