2004-01-29 / Medical

How to Avoid The Flu If You Have Not Had A Flu Shot

How to Avoid The Flu If You Have Not Had A Flu Shot

According to news reports, some areas of the country have experienced a flu vaccine shortage. The Medical Society of the State of New York ad-vises that there is no need for those who did not get a shot (yet) to panic, however. There are still several ways to avoid getting the flu:

First of all, flu vaccine may still be available in your area; call your doctor or local health department to find out. January is not too late to get a shot. The New York State Department of Health (NYS-DOH) is working with local health departments and hospitals to make flu vaccine available to those at highest risk for flu and serious complications. This includes people over 65 and those of any age with chronic medical conditions, pregnant women, and children between the ages of 6 and 23 months.

Most people between the ages of 5 and 49 can use the new flu vaccine nasal spray instead. As of mid-Decem-ber, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was reporting that the spray was still readily available from manufacturers. The spray, however, is only approved for healthy individuals aged 5 to 49. You should consult with your physician to help decide if the spray is appropriate for you.

Adherence by you and others to proper hygiene techniques and healthy habits can prevent the flu virus from entering your body and/or from breaking down your existing immune system.

Steps to Stop Transmission of the Flu

The medical society recommends taking the following precautions, adapt-ed from the NYS-DOH, to prevent getting and spreading the flu.

To help boost your immune system, get plenty of rest and exercise, and eat properly.

Know the symptoms of flu, which often resemble those of many upper respiratory infections but appear much more swiftly and are more severe. A person who has the flu usually has a fever over 100. F, chills, a severe head-ache and muscle aches, cough and sore throat.

Stay home from work or school if you experience flu symptoms. Taking it easy could help you feel better sooner and also will slow the spread of disease to others.

To reduce the spread of germs, cover your nose and mouth, preferably with disposable tissue, when coughing or sneezing. Always discard used tissue properly in the trash. Ask others to do the same.

Pay attention to hand-washing.

After using the bathroom, before eat-ing and before and after preparing food Continued on page 53

food, clean your hands with soap and warm water for at least 15 seconds. Carry a waterless hand gel and wash your hands frequently. Encourage others to do this also.

Clean surfaces you touch frequently, such as door knobs, water faucets, refrigerator handles and telephones.

What to Do if You Still Get the Flu

If you do get the flu:

Get plenty of rest, drink lots of fluid, and avoid using alcohol and tobacco. The NYS-DOH advises adults to take aspirin or non-aspirin pain relievers to ease the muscle aches that typically accompany the flu, especially if the pain causes loss of sleep. Children under age 18, however, should not be given aspirin because of an increased risk of getting the potentially deadly Reye Syndrome. Talk to your childís doctor about using other medications to reduce fever, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen.

For those, described above, at high risk of flu complications, consult a doctor when flu symptoms begin. The physician may choose to use certain antiviral drugs to treat the flu, and it is important to get started on this medicine soon after symptoms begin. Some of these medicines can also be used longer term by high-risk individuals to help prevent flu, according to the NYS-DOH.

For unusually severe flu symptoms, consult a doctor right away. These conditions include trouble breathing, severe dehydration (for instance, if urination has ceased) and abrupt changes in demeanor, such as when a sick child suddenly becomes combative.

People should try to get a flu shot because in past years approximately 36,000 people in the United States have died from complications of influenza. Nevertheless, for the vast majority of people, influenza is unpleasant, but not serious or life threatening.

More information about influenza is available on the websites of the New York State Department of Health at HYPERLINK http://www.health.state.ny.us/nysdoh/flu/index.htm http://www.health.state.ny.us/nysdoh/flu/index.htm

and of the Medical Society of the State of New York at HYPERLINK http://www.mssny.org/index.htm http://www.mssny.org/index.htm.

This information is provided by the Medical Society of the State of New York (MSSNY). For more health-related information and referrals to physicians in your community, contact your local county medical society.

FluVac(FluVAccine) January 2004 ñ NY Medical Press 777 Words

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