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Brace Yourself: It’s Almost Flu Season

Allergy and Asthma image

The flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses. Most healthy people recover from the flu without complications; however, some people, such as older people, young children, pregnant woman, and people with certain health conditions (like asthma), are at high risk for serious complications from the flu. If you are at high risk from complications of the flu, you should consult your healthcare provider to learn how to prevent the flu. If you develop flu-like symptoms, seek professional medical help.

Asthma & the Flu Shot
Every year, the seasonal flu is responsible for causing complications for people with asthma. Getting a seasonal flu shot each year is a very effective way to reduce your chances of dealing with complications due to flu symptoms.

If you have asthma, you should get the flu shot when it is available. Do not get the nasal spray vaccine, which could trigger asthma symptoms or an attack. If you have asthma and get the flu, see a healthcare professional promptly because you are at greater risk of becoming severely ill with flu complications very quickly. If you care for children with asthma, get the flu vaccine to protect them.

The single best way to prevent the flu is to get a flu vaccine each fall.

The vaccine is safe. If you have asthma, your health risks are far greater in not getting the vaccine.

Allergies & the Flu Shot
If you have a severe allergy to eggs, or to any other substance that could be in the flu vaccine (such as latex or gelatin), you should check with your physician before receiving any flu vaccine. If a person reports a severe allergy to latex, vaccines supplied in vials or syringes that contain natural rubber should not be administered, unless the benefit of vaccination outweighs the risk of an allergic reaction to the vaccine. For latex allergies other than anaphylactic allergies, vaccines supplied in vials or syringes that contain dry natural rubber or natural rubber latex can be administered. Allergic reactions (including anaphylaxis) after vaccination procedures are rare.

Common Flu Symptoms
The flu usually starts suddenly and may include symptoms such as fever, headache, extreme tiredness, chills, constant cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, and body aches. Diarrhea and vomiting also can occur but are more common in children.

These symptoms are referred to as “flu-like symptoms.” Many different illnesses, including the common cold, allergy symptoms, and asthma symptoms, can sometimes be similar and confusing. Always consult with your doctor to make a proper diagnosis.

If your runny nose, itchy and watery eyes, sore throat, and other common allergy symptoms are combined with an unusually high fever (100 degrees or higher), chills, severe headache, or significant aches and pains, you could have the flu. If you think your allergy symptoms might be indicative of something more severe, including the flu, you should visit your doctor for a diagnosis or treatment recommendation.

Spreading the Flu
The flu spreads in respiratory spraying from coughing and sneezing. It usually spreads from person to person, though occasionally someone could become infected by touching something with virus on it and touching his or her mouth or nose. Adults may be able to infect others one day before getting symptoms and up to seven days after getting sick. So it’s possible to give the flu before you know you’re sick, as well as while you are sick.

Flu Prevention
The single best way to prevent the flu is to get a flu vaccine each fall. A few antiviral drugs are approved for prevention of the flu. These are prescription medications, and a doctor should be consulted before they are used.

In addition, here are some easy things you can do to prevent the spread of respiratory illnesses like the flu:

  • Cover your nose or mouth with a cloth or tissue when you cough or sneeze – throw it away after use.
  • Wash hands often with soap and water, especially after coughing or sneezing. If you don’t have access to running water, use an alcohol-based hand cleanser.
  • Stay away from people who are sick.
  • If you get the flu, stay home from work and school, and limit contact with others to keep from infecting them.
  • Try not to touch your eyes, nose, or mouth. This is how germs often spread.

Treating the Flu
Some antiviral drugs are approved for treatment of the flu. They are prescription medications, and a doctor should be consulted before the drugs are used. If you get the flu, get plenty of rest, drink a lot of liquids, and avoid using alcohol and tobacco. You can take medications to relieve the symptoms of the flu (but never give aspirin to children or teenagers who have flu-like symptoms, particularly fever).

 

For the most up-to-date flu information, visit flu.gov.

Source: Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, www.aafa.org

This article was originally published in Coping® with Allergies & Asthma magazine, September/October 2011.