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Massage Aha!

Professional therapeutic massage therapy in Kansas City, MO by Aaron Harris, BCTMB

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Can I Get a Massage When I Have the Flu?


While I can certainly understand the inclination to seek a massage to combat the body aches and general “icky” feeling that goes along with suffering from the flu, there are several reasons why it’s a bad idea.

What is Influenza (the Flu)?

Influenza, also known as the “flu” or “grippe” is a respiratory viral infection. It’s generally not life threatening, but can become so if an aggressive strain infects a particularly vulnerable patient.

Who Gets It?

It is estimated that between 5% and 20% of the population gets the flu at least once every year. Almost certainly, every single human gets it at least a few times in their life.

Children are two to three times more likely to catch the flu than adults.

How Serious is the Flu?

Most of the time, a bout of the flu is nothing more than an annoying inconvenience.

For some patients, however, this common virus can lead to hospitalization and even death.

Those who are that the greatest risk include:

  • the very young
  • the elderly
  • patients with chronic heart or lung disease
  • persons with compromised immune systems

The flu hospitalizes around 200,000 people and kills around 36,000 per year.

How is the Flu Transmitted?

The flu virus gains access to the body through inhalation or touching contaminated surfaces.

Contrary to popular belief, the flu can be contracted at any time of year.

The tendency for people to spend more time indoors surrounded by other people during colder months of the year leads to higher infection rates. This is commonly called “flu season.”

The virus invades and attacks mucus-producing cells in the respiratory tract. The symptoms you experience are actually caused by your immune system response.

Signs and Symptoms

It can take 2 to 3 days for flu symptoms to appear, but you are able to transmit the virus before you begin to notice the illness.

You are most infectious around day 4.

The flu often resembles a bad cold:

  • runny nose
  • dry cough
  • sore throat
  • headache
  • chills

The main differences between a cold and the flu are the following additional symptoms:

  • long-lasting high fever over 102 degrees
  • muscle aches
  • joint pain
  • debilitating fatigue.

The flu can last for up to two weeks. Symptoms that last longer are usually due to a secondary infection like pneumonia.

Flu Treatment

Since the flu is a virus, it is completely unaffected by antibiotics.

Let me repeat that: antibiotics are not effective against the flu.

The best thing you can do to get over the flu is rest and give it time to pass. Some over the counter medications may help lessen your symptoms, but do nothing to speed up the process.

There are some antiviral medications, such as Tamiflu, that have proven effective at reducing the duration of an influenza infection. The catch is that they are only useful if taken before symptoms appear.

Flu Prevention

  • Thoroughly washing your hands with soap and hot water often, especially during the winter months is the single best way to prevent catching the flu.
  • Limit your exposure to anyone who is showing symptoms.
  • Clean hard surfaces in your home and office with bleach or Lysol, especially if a family member or coworker is ill.
  • Get a yearly flu shot. These vaccines are not always effective, as the virus can mutate (change) rapidly, but they are extremely safe and scientists have been right about the upcoming virus strains more times than they have been wrong.
Flu Shot
Get your flu shot every year.

Massage and the Flu

If you get a massage in the early stages of a flu infection, you may end up with a more serious case. Massage increases circulation, and this can cause the flu virus to spread throughout your system far more quickly.

Receiving a massage after the infection has peaked can speed recovery, but speeding up the process can actually make you feel sick again.

Another concern is that while you are recovering, you are still contagious, and that puts your massage therapist (me) at risk of infection and spreading it to my other clients.

Keep your flu. I don't want it. Seriously.

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