Jewish World Review Nov. 4, 2004 / 20 Mar-Cheshvan, 5765

David Grimes

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Consumer Reports

What to do when you've got the flu | Due to the severe flu shot shortage, it's a pretty sure bet that millions of people will soon be splayed out on the couch in their Garfield pajamas debating to themselves whether death or daytime television is the better choice.

As a veteran of many bouts of flu, I feel qualified to give advice to those of you who have never experienced this particular form of viral torture.

First of all, the flu is not something that you want to keep to yourself. Your co-workers want to take advantage of their unused sick time, too, so by all means haul yourself into the office the minute you start feeling feverish and weak. Some of your co-workers may suggest that it is inconsiderate of you to come to work when you are infected with a highly contagious disease, but they are just parroting the "company line" and don't really mean it.

Though they may appear standoffish, your co-workers are eager to hear every last detail about your nausea and the fact that you've been too weak to bathe for the last five days. Some co-workers may not be aware that you're suffering from the flu, so be sure to cough and sneeze as often as possible.

Though sharing the flu with co-workers is an act of charity that ranks right up there with the works of Mother Teresa, there will come a time when you are simply too sick to drag yourself into the office. This is when you have to call upon family members to minister to your every need, up to and including fluffing your pillows, adjusting the thermostat up or down every 10 minutes and listening patiently to your incessant whining.

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Oddly enough, you might find that some or all of your family members are not all that interested in ministering to your every need on a 24/7 basis, offering lame excuses like "work" or "school" or "root canal" to get out of the chore. Do not despair. Many people have gotten through a bout of the flu on their own with nothing more than a cup or two of weak tea and a bottle of Tylenol the size of a missile silo. Of course, I do not recommend this spartan existence for you. No bout of flu worthy of the name can be successfully negotiated without, at minimum, the following items:

1) Ten rental DVDs. You will have a lot of empty time on your hands, and watching daytime television is only going to make you feel worse. When I have the flu, I like to watch the movie "Alien" because when the creature pops out of that unfortunate man's stomach, I know just how he feels.

2) An assortment of herbal remedies. None of these will make you feel any better unless one of the herbs happens to be an opium poppy. Still, taking a variety of pills gives you something to do between mad dashes to the bathroom.

3) Chamomile tea. I have no idea what chamomile tea is, but it sounds like something you should be drinking when you have the flu. Besides, even if it's awful, chances are you won't be able to taste it.

4) Tissues. You will need lots of these, like, say, 50 boxes. After use, fling the soggy tissues onto the floor. This makes you look even more pathetic in the eyes of your family members, if and when they come home. It also increases the chance that they will come down with the flu themselves, which is exactly what those horrid, uncaring people deserve for leaving you home alone in the first place.

5) A portable phone. You need to call everyone you know and tell them how sick you are. There is no "wrong" time of the day or night to make these calls. If a friend is truly a friend, he's just as anxious to hear about your diarrhea at 4 a.m. as he is at 4 p.m.

6) A thermometer. Another good way to get back at uncaring family members who have left you home alone to rot is to give them hour-by-hour updates on your temperature.

"Guess what, honey? My temperature was 102. Guess what it is now! No. No. Give up? It's 102.2! Honey? Honey?"

Do not worry if your hands are shaking too badly to read the thermometer; just make up some numbers. It's keeping in constant touch with uncaring family members that matters most.

With the help of these items (or without them), you should be over the flu in somewhere between three and 30 days.

If you don't catch the flu, don't despair. There's always next year.

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JWR contributor David Grimes is a columnist for The Sarasota Herald Tribune. Comment by clicking here.


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