The Flu Contingency

The family, not miserable at all.

The family, not miserable at all.

This content is sponsored by Genentech.  The experiences described and opinions expressed are mine.


When it comes to health, my family and I have been pretty lucky. My kids rarely get sick, and aside from a seemingly never-ending string of martial arts related broken bones, muscle tears, and other injuries, I rarely see a doctor. But all that health luck comes at a price: When we do get sick—particularly with the flu—we tend to go down hard. And we tend to go down at pretty much the same time.

The exhaustion, aches, fever, and chills—which seem to come out of nowhere—are hard on everyone, especially the kids. But as a single parent, trying to care for a sick child while suffering from those same annoying symptoms makes an already difficult job even worse.

At the rodeo -- always in the winter

At the rodeo — always in the winter

Like most people, we hate it when the flu makes us miss family events—many of which are cleverly planned to coincide with flu season.

Naturally, I insist that we do everything we can to minimize our risk: we cover our mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing, we wash our hands with soap and warm water (or use hand sanitizer), stay away from sick people, and, just to be sure, we get a flu vaccination every year.


another view of the familyBut, as we all know, these measures may not always work. So we need a backup. I talked this over with my primary care doc, who told me that the next time I see (or experience) flu symptoms, I should email him right away and he’ll call in a prescription for Tamiflu® (oseltamivir phosphate) capsules. So what is Tamiflu? Excellent question. According to the manufacturer, it’s “an antiviral medicine that attacks the flu virus at its source and helps stop the flu from spreading in your body.” Sounds good, but my instinctive reaction is, “show me the data.” Well, it turns out that there’s actual research to back up these claims: Studies have found that compared to people who didn’t take Tamiflu within 48 hours of their first symptoms, the drug helped shorten the time adults were sick by 30% (that’s 1.3 days) and 26% for kids aged 12 months to 12 years (1.5 days, if you’re counting)[1].

Another really interesting thing about Tamiflu is that, although it’s not a substitute for the flu vaccine, if one person is sick with the flu, others in the family (whether they’ve got symptoms or not) may be able to get their own prescription, which may help prevent them from coming down with the flu at all.

A and Z, healthy as can be

A and Z, healthy as can be

I wish you a very healthy winter. But just in case, you may want to ask your doctor about Tamiflu. And if, by some chance, you (or a loved one) come down with the flu, this coupon may help you save money as well as help your symptoms.

If you have questions about your symptoms or simply want to see if the flu is prevalent in your area – this handy flu tracker will give you the information you need.


Genentech is not responsible for content on this website outside of this individual post.



Tamiflu is a prescription medicine used to treat the flu (influenza) in people 2 weeks of age and older who have had flu symptoms for no more than 2 days. Tamiflu can also reduce the chance of getting the flu in people 1 year and older.

Tamiflu does not prevent bacterial infections that may happen with the flu.

Tamiflu is not a substitute for an annual flu vaccination.

Do not take Tamiflu if you are allergic to oseltamivir phosphate or any of the ingredients in Tamiflu.

Important Safety Information

  • If you have an allergic reaction or a severe rash with Tamiflu, stop taking it, and contact your doctor right away. This may be very serious.
  • People with the flu, particularly children and adolescents, may be at an increased risk of seizure, confusion, or abnormal behavior early during their illness.
  • Let your doctor know if you are pregnant, nursing, have heart problems, breathing problems, a weakened immune system (immunocompromised), kidney problems or other medical conditions as Tamiflu may not be right for you.
  • Also tell your doctor about any medications you are taking or if you’ve received a nasal-spray flu vaccine in the past two weeks.
  • The most common side effects are mild to moderate nausea and vomiting, diarrhea and stomach pain. Please see the Tamiflu full Prescription Information for complete important safety information.

You are encouraged to report side effects to Genentech by calling 1-888-835-2555 or to the FDA by visiting or calling 1-800-FDA-1088



  1. Tamiflu®(oseltamivir phosphate) Prescribing Information. South San Francisco, CA: Genentech USA, Inc.; January, 2013.

Myths and Facts about Concussions and Head Injuries

rebecca carlDr. Rebecca Carl, sports medicine specialist at Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago.
Myths and facts about head injuries and concussions.
Issues: Why the benefits of playing sports often outweigh the risk of concussion; why girls are more likely to get concussions than boys; myths and realities about concussions.

adam breinerAdam Breiner, ND, medical director of The NeuroEdge Brain Performance Center, in Fairfield, CT.
Head injuries, concussions, and brain injury.
Issues: Symptoms, signs, myths, and fact about head injuries and concussions; hyperbaric oxygen therapy, diet moditication, and other unusual–and very successful–treatment options.

Fun? You Can Count On It!

A lot of the STEM-related toys and games we review here focus on science and engineering (building). This week we take a look at five entertaining games that emphasize math. They’re all from Jax, Ltd., and you can find out more at

The Game of Chips

Game of ChipsPlayers take turn rolling the dice and removing any combination of chips (numbered 1-10) that match what they rolled. For example, if you roll an 8, you can take out the 8, 7+1, 6+2, 5+3, 5+2+1. 4+3+1. This part of the game is a great way for young players to use and master basic addition facts. But wait—there’s a small element of strategy involved too. If it’s your turn and there aren’t enough chips left on the table to match your dice, you score the total on those chips. Low score wins. For two or more players, ages 7+. Under $8.

Match ‘Em

Jax Match 'emEach player gets five cards and the first player lays one down. The next in line plays as many cards as possible to match the value of the first player’s card (similar to the matching combinations in The Game of Chips). If you can’t come up with a match, you draw two from the deck and either make a match or establish a new target. The goal, of course, is to be the first to use all your cards. To win, you’ll need a combination of luck, strategy (to make your opponents draw more cards), and a sense of humor. For 2-4 players, ages 7+. About $4.

Over and Out

Jax Over and OutIt all starts with a “Tip Top” card. Players draw cards from the deck and play cards from their own hand, keeping track of the total, and hoping not to be the one who goes over the Tip Top limit. It’s not all about addition, though. Special cards require players to subtract, or even change the Tip Top number. A fun, fast-paced way to use basic math facts and, of course, to spend time together. For 2-8 players, ages 7+. About $7.


jax polygonThe rules of this game are sometimes a challenge to follow, but the game itself is well worth learning. Each of the six-sided pieces has three numbers and three colors and your goal is to lay down your tiles in patterns and combinations that get you the most points. Sounds simple, but this game requires a lot of thinking and strategizing. It’s also a fun way to practice basic addition and multiplication facts. For 2-4 players, ages 7+ (although it’s also a fun game to play by yourself). About $16.

Sequence Numbers

jax sequence numbersIf you like the Sequence games, you already have a pretty good idea of how to play Sequence Numbers. But this one’s a little different. In the other Sequence games, you match pictures on cards with pictures on the game board. In Numbers, each card has an addition or subtraction equation and the answers are on the board. Solve the equation and put down your chip. As with other Sequence games, the goal is to get five chips in a row, up, down, or diagonally. To make it a little easier to find your answer on the board—and to help younger players double-check their math—the equations and their correct answer are printed in the same color. This is a really fun game that’ll get you and the kids thinking and laughing together as you brush up on your basic math facts. Ages 7+, 2-6 players. Around $16.50.

Defending Your Family

Dear Mr. Dad: Every day there’s a story in the news about violence—whether it’s a terrorist, a mass shooter, or some other nut job. I feel bad for the victims of this violence, but I’m also feeling extremely helpless. I’m thinking about signing all of us up for some kind of martial arts lessons but I don’t want to teach my kids to be violent. I read in one of your columns that you have a background in martial arts. Do you recommend a particular style?

A: I completely understand your feelings of helplessness. Every time I hear one of the stories you’re talking about, I experience exactly the same thing.

Martial arts are wonderful for many reasons: they’re often a great workout, help build coordination and balance, increase self-confidence and self-esteem, improve memory, instill discipline and respect, and, of course, teach you how to defend yourself. But martial arts—particularly traditional styles—aren’t magic. First, no amount of martial arts training will protect you from a bomb or a sniper. Second, most martial arts are a sport, which means they emphasize safety and fair fighting (more on that below). You’ll need to practice for a very long time before the techniques you learn will be useful on the street.

The one exception—the skill you can learn right away—is perhaps the most important one of all: “situational awareness.” Like it sounds, situational awareness is being aware of your surroundings, observing other people’s behaviors, recognizing potential threats, and identifying potential escape routes. Situational awareness (which includes keeping your cell phone in your pocket when you’re walking around) will help you avoid many dangerous situations before they even happen.

My frustration with the lack of practical skills in traditional martial arts is what led me, after years of experience with Tae Kwon Do, to Krav Maga, an Israeli style that’s essentially street fighting—no choreographed forms (kata) or metaphysical discussions. I think I learned more practical techniques in my first month of Krav than in a decade of TKD.

As great as it is, Krav Maga focuses on defense—reacting after someone has started to attack you. The problem with that is that if you’re being attacked, chances are the stress will make you forget all those fancy weapon takeaways, joint locks, and other multi-step techniques. So I became interested in a new approach that’s becoming more common: a totally streamlined system that’s designed to do as much damage to your attacker as possible.

I had a chance to experience two of these, and they were both great. Damian Ross’s Self Defense Training System ( teaches a small number of brutal strikes (including punches to the throat and eye gouging) that are easy to learn, can be used in almost any situation, and are absolutely devastating.

Tim Larkin’s Target Focus Training ( has a similar philosophy: “Violence is rarely the answer. But when it is, it’s the only answer.” The goal is to reduce your attacker to a “nonfunctional” state by methodically and viciously attacking vital targets.

One thing you’ll have to overcome if you’re opting for Ross’s or Larkin’s approach is your natural aversion to hurting other people. In martial arts, when you’re sparring, you land a blow, score a point, and then back out. The idea of gouging eyes and breaking knees seems unfair. In the ring, that’s true, but in a real-life attack, your attacker won’t be playing by the rules and you can’t either. So you’ll have to get comfortable with the idea that to protect your family from violence, you (and they) may have to do severe, possibly life-threatening violence, to someone else.



Photo credit: Martin Kníže

Beating the Odds against Processed Food, Obesity, and Disease

Robert Lustig, author of Fat Chance.
Beating the odds against sugar, processed food, obesity, and disease.
Issues: The science and politics that have led to the current pandemic of obesity of chronic disease (think diabetes, heart disease, and more); strategies to help us lose weight and recover our health; what happened when researchers took teens off of sugar for 10 days (hint: the results are amazing)

Energies of Love + Fat Chance

Donna Eden, coauthor of The Energies of Love.
Invisible keys to a fulfilling partnership.
Issues: Four energy types (visual, kinesthetic, digital, and tonal) and the way each makes sense of the world; how your energy tope determines the way you communicate, fight, love, and want to be loved.

Robert Lustig, author of Fat Chance.
Beating the odds against sugar, processed food, obesity, and disease.
Issues: The science and politics that have led to the current pandemic of obesity of chronic disease (think diabetes, heart disease, and more); strategies to help us lose weight and recover our health; what happened when researchers took teens off of sugar for 10 days (hint: the results are amazing)