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Archive for the ‘Flu’ Category

flushot

It’s time for me to make my annual plea for everyone to get their flu shot. In today’s column, I’d like to answer common questions I hear about influenza and the flu shot.

– Can’t I get the flu from the flu shot?

This is a very common myth and proven to be wrong. You cannot catch the flu from the flu vaccine. The flu vaccines that are given by needle are made with viruses that are killed (inactivated), and cannot cause an influenza infection.

– I’ve had the flu shot previously and I got the flu anyhow.

This is possible, but not likely, in that no vaccine is 100 percent effective.

– I’ve never had a flu shot and have never had the flu.

Consider yourself lucky, and as in most cases, one’s luck will usually wear out. Don’t take a chance, this could be the year.

– The flu is no big deal.

Tell that to those who have not survived a bout of influenza, or to the worker who misses a week or more of work, as well as the student missing time from school. Besides, having the flu can make you feel very miserable.

– I worry that it could be harmful to my baby/child to have yet another vaccination.Babies have a higher incidence of death due to influenza. There is no proof that the flu vaccine worsens or changes the effects of the other routine childhood vaccinations. The recommendation is that everyone from six months of age and older should receive the flu vaccine.

– I have already gave a chronic disease and I take lots of medications. Do I really need a flu shot too?

All the more reason to receive a flu shot since the flu is the most deadly for those with chronic medical conditions.

– I have a tremendous fear of getting a shot.

The flu vaccine is available as a nasal spray and is approved for those between the ages of 2 to 49 years of age. It has been proven to be more effective than the shot in children 2 to 8 years of age. The viruses used to develop the nasal spray flu vaccine are alive but weakened (attenuated).

– I’m pregnant, won’t a flu shot harm my baby?

Not only has the flu vaccine injection been proven to be safe during pregnancy, but is highly recommended for pregnant women in any trimester of pregnancy. Only the injection form of flu vaccine and not the nasal spray should be used in pregnancy.

– I’m 35 years old and healthy, do I really need a flu shot?

In 2009-10, the swine flu (H1N1 virus) took a particularly heavy toll on the age group 18 to 64 years of age. Better safe than sorry.

– Any reason I absolutely shouldn’t get a flu shot?

There are a few reasons, the most common being a prior allergic reaction to a flu shot or a severe allergy to eggs. The vaccine should be delayed if you have an illness with a fever.

– When should I get the shot?

The flu season typically begins as early as October and can last until late spring. Flu shots are currently available and I advise getting it sooner rather than later. It takes about two weeks after receiving the shot for it to become effective.

– Where can I get a flu shot?

Most major pharmacies such as Rite Aid, Walgreens and CVS, provide flu shots on a drop- in basis, as well as through most primary care doctor’s offices. Larger medical groups such as mine, the Palo Alto Medical Foundation, will have special drop in flu clinic days. For children, call your child’s primary care provider to find out how they are to receive a flu vaccination.

– How much will a flu shot cost me?

For most people it is free, either because they have a government insurance plan such as MediCare or MediCruz, or they have private insurance. For those who have no such coverage, the out-of-pocket cost of flu vaccine is between $30 to $50 depending on which vaccine is given.

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Winter Resp

The winter respiratory, cold and flu season is upon us. I have seen quite a spike in visits to urgent care by people suffering from coughs, nasal and sinus congestion, sore throats and generalized achiness.

I believe that people, now more than ever, realize that there is no cure for the common upper-respiratory infection, also known as URI or head and chest cold.

I am sympathetic to anyone who feels ill, and I understand the desire to feel well as soon as possible, but there just is no quick fix to the common upper-respiratory infections, including bronchitis.

Unless one’s symptoms last longer than expected, as I will describe below, antibiotics will do no good and may even cause unwanted side effects and help create germs that are resistant to antibiotics.

Here are some situations in which someone with upper-respiratory symptoms should be seen by a doctor:

– You have a fever of 103 degrees Fahrenheit or higher.

– You have any fever lasting more than three days.

– Your cough is associated with wheezing, chest pain or shortness of breath.

– You are elderly or have a compromised immune system due to chronic disease or chemotherapy.

– You have vomiting for more than one day and cannot keep down any liquids, or you have profuse diarrhea.

– You are basically well, except that you have a cough for two to three weeks.

– Your sinus congestion with green mucus doesn’t improve after seven to 10 days.

Most coughs, even with yellow or green mucus, are considered bronchitis and are caused by viruses that cannot be cured with antibiotics. A recent large study concluded that bronchitis can last as long as 3 weeks. If your cough lasts longer, you should see a doctor.

Another reason to see a doctor is if you have a cough associated with fever, shortness of breath and feeling as if you’ve been run over by a Mack truck — you might have pneumonia or influenza. Treatment is available for many who have these illnesses.

Regarding sinusitis: Almost all sinus infections, even with green mucus production, begin as a common viral infection and will improve without antibiotics. If symptoms last more than seven to 10 days, then an antibiotic may be indicated.

When you do see your doctor, let him or her evaluate you by listening to what you have to say, examining you and then determining what type of treatment is necessary to make you feel better.

PS: It’s not too late for the flu shot. Influenza cases are just beginning in our area, and as is happening in other parts of the country, this disease may spread among us quickly. Better safe than sorry.

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calling

It’s getting to be the time of year when respiratory illnesses, such as colds, coughs and the flu, begin to make more of us ill.

I’m frequently asked by patients whether they can return to work or school or resume exercising when feeling sick. I’d like to offer some guidelines to help make such decisions.

I know missing work or school can mean falling behind on one’s workload, but going to work or school while ill can not only prolong an illness, but also spread it to others.

It seems employers and educators are becoming more tolerant of excused absences due to illness. They realize that not only will workers or students who are sick be less productive, but they may cause others to become ill and affect the entire office or classroom.

In fact, it has been reported that more than two-thirds of all health-related productivity losses are the result of sick employees who show up and perform poorly — not those who miss work to recover.

As a rule, stay home when ill:

– If you have a fever (100 degrees or higher).

– If you experience frequent coughing or sneezing.

– If you are taking medication that may make you dizzy, lightheaded or unable to concentrate.

– If you have vomiting or diarrhea.

Consider returning to work or school when the above symptoms have cleared up.

Meanwhile, you can take several precautions — whether at home, at work or at school — to help keep from spreading illness to others.

Wash your hands frequently with soap and water or with a hand sanitizer, and keep your hands away from your face.

Cover your face when sneezing or coughing, using tissue paper or the sleeve on your arm.

Try to stay several feet from face-to-face contact with those around you.

I can’t emphasize enough the importance of keeping distance between those who are sick and others who are not. Germs are spread through respiratory droplets from our noses and mouths. In normal conversation and breathing, those droplets from the mouth may extend out one or two feet from you, but a sneeze or cough can spread them an estimated six to eight feet.

Those who are healthy need to act defensively when in the presence of someone who is showing symptoms of an illness.

Mild to moderate physical activity is usually OK if you have a common cold and no fever. Don’t exercise if you have a fever, fatigue or widespread muscle aches.

If you do choose to exercise when you’re sick, reduce the intensity and length of your workout. Exercising at your normal intensity when you have more than a simple cold puts you at risk for a more serious illness.

Let your body be your guide. If you have a cold and feel miserable, take a break. Scaling back or taking a few days off from exercise when you’re sick shouldn’t affect your performance. Resume your normal workout routine gradually as you begin to feel better.

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I would like to make my annual plea for everyone to get a flu shot.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there is a good supply of the vaccine available this year, enough for 135 million doses.

Influenza, commonly called the flu, is unpredictable. During the 2009-10 season the “swine flu” was a pandemic, causing thousands of hospitalizations and many deaths worldwide.

It is estimated that during an average flu season, 250,000 to 500,000 people die worldwide from complications of the flu. Although last year’s flu season was relatively mild, there were still numerous deaths, including 35 children who died of influenza in the U.S.

This year’s vaccine contains two new strains, plus the same H1N1 as last year. Children 6 months and older and almost all adults should be vaccinated, starting now. The vaccine’s effectiveness should last all season. Children 8 years and younger need two doses only in the first year they are vaccinated.

Flu shots are safe at any stage of pregnancy and are especially important for expectant mothers, as they are much more likely to have a serious illness resulting from the flu and could thus be more likely to miscarry or have a premature delivery. A pregnant woman’s flu shot stimulates her immune system, creating antibodies that cross the placenta into the fetus. That protects her baby during the first six months after birth, before the infant is old enough to be vaccinated.

There’s no need to delay receiving the flu shot because of a mild illness, but don’t get a shot if you have a fever. Waiting until the fever is gone or until you’re feeling better after a more moderate or severe illness is the rule.

Many people worry that a flu shot might give them the flu. That is just not true. The viruses found in the flu shots have been inactivated (killed), and dead germs cannot cause illness. They do, however, stimulate the immune system to create antibodies to help prevent the flu.

The only people who should not get a flu shot are those who:

– Are allergic to egg products.

– Have already had a bad reaction to influenza vaccine (extremely rare).

– Have had an episode of a neurological disease called Guillain-Barre syndrome.

A few minor side effects may briefly occur from the flu shot, such as a mild ache and redness at the injection site, a low-grade fever and mild body aches.

I look at it this way: Why not get a vaccination that has minimal side effects and has a good chance at preventing an illness that could make you feel terrible for a week and also make you miss work? It’s a cheap form of health insurance.

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It’s that time of year again to start making preparations for the flu season, which can begin as early as October and last as late as May.

Influenza, the name of the virus for which the “flu” season is named, causes a highly contagious respiratory infection that often starts very quickly and may cause the following symptoms:

– Fever, headache and extreme fatigue

– Cough, sore throat and runny or stuffy nose

– Body aches and sometimes vomiting and diarrhea

The flu can cause mild to severe illness and occasionally can lead to death. Most healthy people who contract the flu recover without complications. However, some people, especially the elderly and the very young, as well as those with chronic medical conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, and asthma, are at a high risk for serious complications of the flu. One of the most deadly side effects of the flu is pneumonia, which is a very serious lung infection.

The flu usually spreads from person to person via respiratory droplets when someone who is ill coughs or sneezes. It also often spreads when a person touches some object that has the influenza virus on it and then touches the mouth, nose or eyes.

A person coming down with the flu is contagious from one day before any symptoms appear and remains contagious for up to five days after the symptoms begin.

The best way to prevent getting influenza is to get a flu vaccination. The vaccine is approved for use in people older than 6 months of age. Almost everyone can benefit from the flu shot, but it is highly recommended for the following groups:

– Pregnant women and children younger than 5 years

– People 50 years of age and older and those with chronic medical conditions

– Those who live in nursing homes or other long-term care facilities

– People who work or live with those at high risk for complications of the flu

The flu shot contains a dead virus which, when injected via a needle in the arm, will cause a person’s immune system to create antibodies to help prevent one from getting infected. This vaccine cannot give anyone the flu, but it can cause side effects of soreness, redness or swelling at the injection site, low-grade fever and aches. These side effects are usually very mild and last only a few days. In extremely rare instances, a severe reaction may occur, as is possible with any vaccination or medical procedure. Don’t get vaccinated if you have a severe allergy to chicken eggs, have ever had a bad reaction to a flu shot or are ill with a fever.

Flu shots are already available at many doctors’ offices and also are being conveniently provided by the local pharmacies CVS, Walgreens and Rite Aid for about $30 cash, with Medicare and some private insurance accepted.

I think of the flu shot as being a form of cheap health insurance. I’ve already gotten mine and hope that you will, too.

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