The flu or seasonal influenza is caused by influenza viruses, which infect the respiratory tract (i.e., the nose, throat, lungs). The flu is much more serious than the common cold. The flu season typically runs from October to May.
Common flu symptoms include, fever, chills, fatigue, body aches, sore throat, stuffy or runny nose and headache. Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea. Not everyone with the flu will have a fever. The flu can cause mild to severe illness, and at times can lead to death. Most people who get the flu will have a mild illness. They will not need medical care or antiviral drugs, and will recover in less than two weeks.
It is not known if having cancer increases your risk for getting the flu. But it is known that if you have cancer now or have had certain types of cancer in the past (such as lymphoma or leukemia), you are at high risk for complications from the flu or influenza, including hospitalization and death.
Pneumonia, bronchitis, sinus infections and ear infections are examples of flu-related complications.
Cancer patients and people who live with or care for cancer patients should not risk getting the flu.
Here are 6 things you can do to reduce your chance of getting the flu.
1. Get a flu shot.
- This is the most important step to take to prevent the flu.
- Everyone 6 months of age and older should get a flu vaccine every season.
- People with cancer should NOT receive the nasal spray vaccine because their immune system may be weakened. The flu shot is made up of inactivated (killed) viruses, and the nasal spray vaccine is made up of live viruses. The nasal spray vaccine is not approved for use in people with weakened immune systems.
2. Avoid close contact with people that are sick
3. Clean your hands
- Washing your hands often will help protect you from germs.
- Use an alcohol-based hand rub, if soap and water are not available.
4. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth
- Germs are often spread when a person touches something that is contaminated with germs and then touches his or her eyes, nose, or mouth.
5. Clean and disinfect
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces at home, work or school, especially when someone is ill.
6. Take flu antiviral drugs if your doctor prescribes them.
- If you get the flu, medication can be used to treat your illness.
- They can make flu milder and shorten the time you are sick.
- They may also prevent serious flu complications.
- Studies show that flu antiviral drugs work best for treatment when they are started within 2 days of getting sick, but starting them later can still be helpful, especially if the sick person has a high risk condition like cancer or is very sick from the flu.
I just got my flu shot. My arm is a little sore, but I’ll take that any day over having something that could put the lives of me and my family at risk.
Don’t take any chances. Get your flu shot today!