Last year, I nearly died, or at least I felt that way. My body was ravaged by a fever of 39ºC (sometimes rising to 41ºC) with a side of cold flashes, hot flashes, sweating, coughing, sneezing, runny nose, and aches. I went through five boxes of tissues, praying the whole way through the experience that God be merciful and cut off the blood supply to my entire face.
Needless to say, the flu is not fun. It’s a horrible experience. I was one of those unlucky people who got the Type A, which is the more severe influenza virus. The Type A virus causes the big spreads of flu from person to person (and sometimes even from person to animal). Type B is the typical crud virus that might take you out for a day but you’re fine come the next morning.
Recently, many students at my base school tested positive for Type A. The school immediately took full defensive measures and put on the white mouth masks. I wore one off and on throughout this season, but when my Vice Principal actually sat down to talk with me about the issue with an English dictionary I decided to make it a permanent fixture on my face for the near future.
It’s interesting how some Japanese customs are similar and different from American ones in terms of flu prevention. Both recommend washing your hands as often as possible. Every classroom at my school has hand sanitizer and students are encouraged to use it the most when they’re sick. Both also recommend not going outside into the cold. If it is necessary to go outside, bundle up. Wear a jack, scarf, and mittens. It’s winter, for Pete’s sake, quit exposing your legs!
However, Japan and other Eastern countries put on the mouth masks for protection from illness Americans generally don’t unless we’ve got some kind of lung condition that makes it necessary. Japanese people do it for everything: colds, flus, viruses, you name it. If there’s something in the air, the white masks go on the face. It was strange walking around my town this week since everyone wore one. I felt like I was in the midst of the movie Contagion, and I feared for my body.
Japanese people also have this habit of chugging health drinks. Vitamin D is especially popular. When I went to my local 7 Eleven a few days ago, the place was sold out of them. In America, people generally take the medicine a doctor gives them and not much else. Maybe an American might pop a Centrum pill in with the pharmaceutical cocktail the doc gave them, but health drinks aren’t really a thing.
I’ve also been told repeatedly by my co-workers that I should gargle. Apparently, gargling and spitting out all the crud from your throat and mouth supposedly gets rid of a lot of germs. Most Americans I know don’t put much stock in this piece of advice, and to be honest no study I know shows that it does anything. Still, I’d say if you’ve got a sore throat, go ahead and gargle with some salt. It’s a nice old fashioned home remedy that both countries agree will help get rid of the soreness quickly.
And, of course, Japan recommends drinking copious amounts of tea. America loves to drink water for hydration when there’s a flu outbreak. Japanese people will thrust green tea at you if you sniffle. All my teachers recommend drinking tea with honey, especially honey harvested locally. I know of no bee farms near me, so I just use the grocery store’s stuff.
Personally, I’m doing my best to avoid the flu. I do not want a repeat of the nightmare from last year, I hope everyone else stays healthy as well out there in the germ riddled world.
After all, the flu is out there, waiting, plotting it’s next move to strike when we least expect it.