Keep the sniffles away

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In 2011, the Health Ministry reported a staggering 20,702 of influenza cases, that's a 13% increase in patients being admitted to polyclinics for acute respiratory infections (ARI) and other related diseases. Read on to find out how you can immunize yourself and your family.

flu vaccine side effects

Young girl sick from the flu

The Ministry of Health has noted that Singapore “typically experiences an increase in influenza activity in January to February period.” Dr. Tan Tze Lee, Chairman of the Singapore Primary Care respiratory Group, has attributed the spike of cases due to people taking extra precautions so as to not get sick during the holiday period.

There is no need to panic though, as the new strain, Influenza A (or H1N1-2009) is a generally mild illness. It only seriously affects groups such as babies, older folks, pregnant women, and those with chronic diseases.

What Is Influenza?

Influenza is a severe and contagious viral infection, affecting mainly the nose, throat, bronchi and, occasionally, the lungs. Usually lasting for a week, the infection has the following symptoms:

  • High fever
  • Aching muscles
  • Headache and severe unease
  • Non- productive cough
  • Sore throat
  • Stuffy nose

Fighting Influenza

Influenza antiviral drugs have proven to reduce the severity and duration of flu symptoms. Relenza, an antiviral inhalant, has seen an increase in sales for the last 2 months, following the spike in flu cases.

One 12-year-old boy who can gladly vouch for this antiviral usage is Darren. He was diagnosed with high fever and infectious influenza, just before his Primary School Leaving Examinations (PSLE) last year.  His doctor, Dr. Ken Loo, prescribed the antiviral Relenza, through an inhaler. Darren’s mum, Mdm Foo, heeded Dr. Kee Loo’s advice without any hesitation. In the past, Darren’s brother, who had H1N1, had also been quickly treated with this antiviral. Luckily for Darren, the antiviral worked quickly and successfully; hence he recovered just in time for PSLE to score straight As.

Mdm Foo’s family has also proven antivirals to be useful whilst travelling.

Just before their departure for a holiday to Hong Kong, they found out that there was a severe flu outbreak there. Since there was no time to receive flu vaccinations, they used the antiviral inhalers to protect themselves.


Available in tablet and inhaler form, antivirals are extremely effective when quick recovery is needed. Most patients will be able to recover without complications. Dr. Tan advises antivirals especially for those at highest possibility of influenza complications.

“Patients at higher risk of influenza related complications will benefit from taking antivirals. The most effective way to prevent the flu is of course still through vaccination,” he says.  This includes young children below 2 years and older folks aged 65 and above. However, one should always consult their doctor before taking the medication.

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Written by

Roshni Mahtani