The influenza season has returned to Japan. Over the year-end and New Year holiday period, people came to my clinic's outpatient department, telling the doctors they felt chills and had sudden temperature rises. Whether or not you have the flu can be checked easily, using a cotton swab to rub against the back of the inside of one's nose, after which it gets tested. After about a 10-minute wait, you get your result. I myself told some patients, "It's a positive. You have the flu."
Some say, "I thought so. I'll take sick leave for a while," while others would tell me, "Doctor, I heard about a new medication that can cure the flu in one day. Please prescribe it to me." They would continue, "I can't take a day off."
It is true that there's medication available today that holds off the flu virus by taking it just once. However, a body that sustains damage from the virus cannot quickly recover and there remains a chance that the infected person can spread the virus around even if the fever is gone.
According to enforcement regulations of the School Health and Safety Act, a child infected with influenza must stay at home for at least five days after the symptoms appear and two days after the fever breaks -- three days for young children. For adults, however, there are no legal stipulations on when they can go back to work after catching the flu, meaning that no rules exist that serve as brakes to those who want to go back to work as soon as they take the medication that brings their temperature down in a day.
That being said, adults should also get plenty of rest in line with the regulations concerning the school health law since they would probably still be light-headed after they developed a fever and there are risks of spreading the virus to others around them.
I personally try not to prescribe "take it once and you're all set" medication but stick to conventional drugs that you take twice a day for five days. This way, I can tell my patients, "Think of this period while you take your medication as time for recovery and please get plenty of rest at home."
Nevertheless, it would be so ironic if new medication that requires people to take it fewer times than existing drugs, leading patients to rush back to work after they take it just once, was consequently making more people suffer.
Now that we have rung in the new year, what should we expect for 2020? With the Olympics and Paralympics coming to Japan, things might get hectic. Still, our fundamental rule should be to keep one's pace, get rest when you become tired and get even more rest when you are sick. Pushing oneself too hard does not help a person or the people around them.
No matter how much medicine advances, or even if artificial intelligence becomes capable of doing many things, there is only one body that we've each been given and there is no replacement. I hope to take good care of this body of mine and spend every day this year without rushing myself.
(By Rika Kayama, psychiatrist)