Don’t wait to see a doctor for the flu |

Don’t wait to see a doctor for the flu

Scott N. Miller
Vail, CO, Colorado

Visits to the doctor aren’t cheap. But missing work can get expensive.

I burned through a chunk of my sick leave this past week ” and learned a few lessons ” thanks to a bout with the flu. This wasn’t a don’t-stray-more-than-20-feet-from-a-toilet intestinal bug most of us associate with “flu” but a wrestling match with the nasty, ever-evolving influenza virus, complete with body aches, sweats, chills, a nasty cough and a general inability to get much beyond horizontal for the better part of five days. Think of it as bed, bath and not much beyond.

Since the bug first hit on a Friday, I figured I’d go through the weekend, see how I felt and then see a doctor on Monday if I wasn’t any better. In the process, I missed by far the best day to ride a motorcycle so far this year. Rats!

Monday came, to the doctor I went, and there I learned my first lessons, courtesy of Dr. Susan Vickerman of Colorado Mountain Medical.

First, the old ride-it-out strategy can actually work against you these days. Influenza is a virus, like a cold, and a virus is difficult to treat with medicine. That’s led a lot of us to take the traditional rest and plenty of fluids route. There are drugs available to soften the flu’s punch these days, but the trick is to start taking the capsules within 48 hours of getting sick. That means getting in early is crucial.

Participate in The Longevity Project

The Longevity Project is an annual campaign to help educate readers about what it takes to live a long, fulfilling life in our valley. This year Kevin shares his story of hope and celebration of life with his presentation Cracked, Not Broken as we explore the critical and relevant topic of mental health.

If your doctor thinks you have the flu, be prepared to endure a few seconds of a flu test, which involves sticking a long cotton swab up your nose. There are worse medical procedures, but this one feels a bit like you’re Curly on the receiving end of Moe’s wrath. How do you spell “Nnnnngggyaaaahh, nnnngggyaaaahh, nnnngggyaaaahh,” anyway?

I missed the ideal Tamiflu window by a day or so, although the capsules seem to have helped a bit.

Another lesson, and this is important, is that the Colorado Mountain Medical office in Vail is open for a few hours on Sundays for walk-in patients. If I’d known this, I probably wouldn’t have waited until Monday and might have missed a little less work.

While this bug will cost me two full days of work and parts of three or four more, Vickerman also gave what’s become a traditional plea doctors give their patients: Don’t be a hero.

Far too many people go to work when they’re sick, Vickerman said. That just spreads germs to co-workers and can keep people sick longer than they need to be. And co-workers do grumble when someone sniffles, sneezes and hacks into the office.

But it can be hard to stay away.

Some of us don’t have insurance or sick leave, which means missing work makes it even harder to keep up with our bills. A lot of us bank our own sick time for the inevitable days when our kids are under the weather. Paid time off is precious, and you hate to “waste” it on yourself.

Some of us think we’re indispensable, although most of us aren’t. There are times you really are needed, though. I know I’ve been asked to hang on for another couple of hours when a bug had already taken out a couple of people in a small organization on a deadline day.

Like most bugs, this flu shall pass. So will yours. If there’s any way to do it, ride out as much of your bug as possible on your back, safe at home. It’s probably cheaper in the long run.

Business Editor Scott N. Miller writes about valley business every Saturday. Contact him at 748-2930 or at

Support Local Journalism