02 March 2008

How the Flu Works

I'm pretty sure I saw this on the Discovery Channel, but I may have confused some of the details (heh). 

The flu begins its life as a nasty little bug, the kind of bug that none of the other bugs likes because it's always mean and never shares. When it grows up to full bugness, it has achieved Supreme Meanness, and it is ready to take on humanity. 

It jumps into its first victim, where it begins its nefarious plot. The game begins with a clone army, which it prepares in the lungs of the infected, hapless soul, even before that person realizes s/he is sick. The first sign of illness, in fact, is a teeny little cough, which serves the evil bug by dispersing clone minions into other hapless victims -- again, before the cougher even knows s/he is sick.

After the victim has done a few days of the bug's evil, the clone armies begin to march out of the lungs and start tearing up other parts of the body. The victim now realizes s/he is sick because s/he begins to feel nausea, fever, chills, runny nose, headache, etc. In short, the victim feels s/he has been run over by a bulldozer.

The truly evil part of the bug's plan is the nausea. The bug knows that if the victim does not eat or drink enough to keep the body's defenses up, the bug can win. So the victim must stuff him/herself with water, chicken soup, Gatorade, Saltines, and/or Girl Scout "Cinna-Spins" even though they would rather just curl up & die.

All of the battle is going on at the cellular level, so you can't *see* anything. Victims may look flushed from fever or pale from nausea, but they don't have any knife wounds or missing limbs. Thus, it's easy to poke them and call them slackers. But in fact, their metabolism is running so high they are burning more calories than they could wish to eat. This leads to what cyclists call "the bonk," where your body just runs out of energy & shuts down higher functions, like consciousness. And thus, we nap. And nap. And then nap some more. 

I've been sleeping on & off for the last 36 hours, trying to let my body handle the Battle of the Bug. I've avoided drugs because fever is one of your body's natural defenses for these nasty bugs, and it's a good and useful thing as long as it doesn't get up over 103-ish, where it starts frying brain cells (not a great idea). I have this mental image of my body's defenses all lined up & ready for battle, and some Pharmaceutical Pom Pom Squad standing in the way trying to 'help.' No thanks. My body is well-equipped for this battle. 

And so, I'm letting my body handle the mess. I'm tired of coughing, and I really wish I could take some aspirin to stop the general aches but that would reduce the fever too, so, I'll suffer. Actually, rather than suffer, I'll just go back to sleep. Right after I force down another cup of soup. 

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