Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Fighting the Flu!

by Tracy Jacobs, MD with Family Medicine Trinity Medical Clinics – Chelsea

Once again it is flu season in Alabama. To avoid being one of the 1 million people hospitalized annually for this potentially deadly virus, protect yourself with one of the following options:

1. The seasonal flu vaccination. This is the typical yearly "flu shot" that one can get at most pharmacies, primary care and urgent care offices. It can protect against 3 or 4 strains of the flu. If you have had a life-threatening reaction to a flu shot in the past, have had Guillain-Barre Syndrome, or have an egg allergy, talk to your doctor before getting a flu shot. This is approved for everyone 6 months of age and older.

2. The nasal spray vaccination. This is approved for children aged two to adults aged 49. This is a weakened live virus vaccine and those on long term aspirin, allergic to eggs or pregnant females should avoid the nasal spray. Patients with a history of Guillain-Barre Syndrome or immunosuppressed patients should talk to their doctor before getting the nasal vaccine. Children, ages 2 to 4, who have recently taken influenza antiviral medications or have a history of wheezing or asthma, should avoid the nasal vaccination. Despite all of the warnings, there are recent data to suggest that in children ages 2 to 8, the nasal vaccine prevented 50% more cases of the flu than the flu shot. Children, who get immunized against the flu for the first time, will need two doses of either method (nasal spray or shot) at least 28 days apart.

3. Recombinant flu vaccination. This shot is for people, ages 18 to 49, who have had a severe allergic reaction to eggs. This injection is usually administered by a physician with experience in severe allergic conditions. There are fewer doses of this vaccination and the cost is significantly more, so discuss this option with your physician.

4. High dose flu vaccination. This is specifically designed to protect people ages 65 and older who may have a weaker immune system. By giving the individual four times the dose a more robust response is expected. The high dose vaccination has been shown to be 24.2% more effective as compared to the regular flu vaccine. As with all flu vaccines, this is not recommended for those who have had a severe reaction to flu vaccine in the past.

5. Intradermal vaccination. This shot uses a much smaller needle and is injected into the skin instead of muscle. This is indicated for those individuals ages 18 to 64 and has the same precautions as the regular flu vaccination.

The flu vaccine cannot cause the flu! However, one can get a headache, mild body ache and malaise after being vaccinated. This usually lasts only a day or two and is much less severe than the flu. If you feel like you may have the flu, call your doctor’s office. In the meantime, stay hydrated, use acetaminophen or ibuprofen as needed for fevers, and get plenty of rest. Good hand hygiene and wearing a mask if symptoms appear will help prevent spreading the flu to your family and coworkers.

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