Your Flu Questions Answered
Living with cancer increases your risk for complications from influenza. If you have cancer now or have had cancer in the past, you are at higher risk for complications from the flu. To help prepare you for the flu this season, here are answers to some of your most important flu-related questions.
What should people with cancer
and survivors know about this flu
Flu refers to illnesses caused by a number of different influenza viruses. Flu can cause a range of symptoms and effects, from mild to deadly. Some people, including people with cancer and survivors, are more likely to get flu complications.
Symptoms of the flu include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills, and fatigue. Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea. People also may be infected with the flu and have respiratory symptoms without a fever.
Getting a flu shot as soon as it becomes available each year is the first and most important step in protecting against flu viruses.
Should I get a flu shot?
Yes. People with cancer and survivors are at higher risk for complications from flu, even if they are now cancer-free. People with cancer or a history of cancer should receive the seasonal flu shot, not the nasal spray vaccine. People who live with or care for a person with cancer or a survivor should also be vaccinated against seasonal flu.
Every year, a different flu vaccine is developed to match the constantly changing flu strains that circle the globe. This year’s vaccine is an all-in-one flu shot that protects against the swine flu strain (H1N1) plus two other kinds of influenza. Getting a flu shot as soon as it becomes available each year is the first and most important step in protecting against flu viruses. The vaccination’s protection will last throughout the flu season.
What can I do to help reduce
the spread of the flu?
Develop good health habits to stop the spread of germs. Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, and throw the tissue in the trash after your use it. Wash your hands often with soap and water. If soap and water aren’t available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth. Germs spread this way. Try to stay at least six feet away from people who appear ill, and if you are sick, keep away from others as much as possible. Follow public health advice regarding school closures, avoiding crowds, and other social distancing measures. Be prepared in case you get sick with a supply of over-the-counter medicines, alcohol-based hand sanitizer, and tissues. Take flu antiviral drugs if your doctor prescribes them.
What should I do if I think I may
have the flu?
If you have received cancer treatment such as chemotherapy or radiation therapy within the last month, or have a blood or lymphatic form of cancer, call your doctor immediately if you get flu symptoms or if you have been within six feet of someone known or suspected to have the flu. Your doctor may give you antiviral drugs that stop flu viruses from reproducing in your body and can make your illness milder and make you feel better faster. They may also prevent serious flu complications.
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