With the cold season fast approaching, it’s the time of year to be mindful of protecting yourself against contracting influenza and pneumonia. Each year hundreds of thousands of individuals contract flu and pneumonia, resulting in hospitalization and putting them at risk of more serious complications. Individuals with health conditions such as autoimmune disorders, diabetes, cancer, asthma, AIDS, or with compromised immune systems are strongly encouraged to get vaccinated with both the flu and pneumonia vaccine. Realizing the seriousness of contracting these diseases, many employers have begun to provide their employees with the flu shot for free or at a minimal cost. The pneumonia vaccine is recommended for individuals 50 and older, in addition to children from six weeks to 6 years of age. In some cases, your doctor may suggest that you be vaccinated earlier than age 50 if indicated.
Each year a new flu vaccine is introduced for protection against new strains of the flu virus, therefore the vaccine is recommended annually, and or in addition to the pneumonia vaccine. According to the Centers for Disease Control, in order to better protect yourself against both conditions, there are some things that you should keep in mind for prevention and treatment.
Tips for Prevention:
• Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
• Wash your hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol based rub
• Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. Germs spread this way.
• Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
• If you are sick with flu-like illness, the CDC recommends that you stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone except to get medical care or for other necessities. (Your fever should be gone without the use of a fever-reducing medicine.)
• While sick, limit contact with others as much as possible to keep from infecting them.
Tips for Treatment:
• If you get the flu, antiviral drugs can treat your illness.
• Antiviral drugs are different from antibiotics. They are prescription medicines (pills, liquid or an inhaled powder) and are not available over-the-counter.
• Antiviral drugs can make illness milder and shorten the time you are sick. They may also prevent serious flu complications. Treatment with an antiviral drug can mean the difference between having a milder illness versus a very serious illness that could result in a hospital stay.
• 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 health or is very sick from the flu. Follow your doctor’s instructions for taking this drug.
• Flu-like symptoms include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. Some people also may have vomiting and diarrhea. People may be infected with the flu, and have respiratory symptoms without a fever.
If you are hesitant about getting either vaccine or feel that you need more information to make an informed decision, visit your healthcare provider for more information and answers to your questions.