As the winter solstice approaches, people in the U.S. are making sure they are prepared to face the colder weather. Firewood stockpiles have been replenished. Winter coats have been taken out of closets. Candles, water, food and other supplies are on standby in case of a blackout or other emergency.
Still, in the middle of December, there is one more thing that Americans need to make sure they are ready for: the flu. And when it comes to people who have diseases related to asbestos exposure, the flu may be especially hazardous.
At Kazan, McClain, Lyons, Greenwood and Harley, we want to make sure that our clients and their loved ones are doing everything they can to protect themselves against the flu this season. That includes getting a flu shot, knowing what to do in case one gets sick and learning how to avoid the virus.
20 percent of Americans catch the flu every year
Anyone who has ever had the flu is already familiar with its the symptoms: stuffy nose, sore throat, fever, painful muscles, fatigue, cough, upset stomach and more. This infection will also increase the risk of other diseases, such as pneumonia.
Experts estimate that 20 percent of people in the U.S. contract the flu every season, which can begin as early as October and end as late as May. More than 200,000 individuals are eventually admitted into the hospital because of this virus.
Although the flu can affect anyone, people who may have a higher risk of catching it include the elderly, young children asthmatics, diabetics, heart disease patients and individuals who have a weakened immune system.
What the flu means for patients with cancer and other illnesses
The flu can be especially dangerous for individuals who have malignant diseases of the respiratory system, such as mesothelioma. It is not clear whether these patients are more likely than those within the general population to catch the virus. However, people who have serious respiratory problems, such as mesothelioma or asbestosis, or immune systems weakened by cancer treatments, may experience more complications from the flu.
Protection and care
Government health officers recommend that all individuals aged 6 months or older get vaccinated against the flu. That includes patients who are sick with illnesses caused by exposure to asbestos. People who are severely ill with other conditions may not be able to receive a flu shot, but any questions about whether an inoculation is appropriate can be answered by a medical professional.
There are two main forms of flu vaccination: one is a nasal spray infused with weakened virus, while the other is an injection of dead virus. Cancer patients should only receive the latter type of inoculation because the former may cause sickness among individuals who have a weaned immune system. Caregivers or loved ones may take the nasal spray unless the patient is undergoing high-dose chemotherapy.
Once an individual starts developing symptoms of the flu, he or she must consult a medical professional immediately. Caregivers need to be prepared to discuss a patient’s medical history. Afterward, caregivers have to make sure that their charges take all the necessary medications, recuperate in a room separate from non-sick individuals, and that everyone in the household cleans their hands frequently.
There are other good tips that will help prevent the flu:
- Use soap and warm water, or alcohol-based sanitizers, to clean your hands.
- Keep your hands away from you mouth, nose and eyes.
- Try to stay away from small children who attend school or daycare.
- Stay at least six feet away from sick people, if they cannot be avoided altogether.