Mesothelioma patients must be extra cautious during flu season, which runs from October to May of each year. This is because people with weakened immune systems and those undergoing certain cancer treatments are at greater risk of developing severe flu complications. Stay safe during flu season 2022 by following these guidelines.
Do Mesothelioma Patients Have a Higher Flu Risk?
There is no definite evidence that proves mesothelioma patients are at a greater risk of getting influenza (flu). However, since mesothelioma patients often have compromised immune systems, they are more likely to experience dangerous complications from the virus.
Additionally, certain cancer treatments put mesothelioma patients at greater risk for these complications.
Serious flu complications in mesothelioma patients may include:
- Dehydration that requires hospitalization
- Worsened heart and lung conditions
If you have mesothelioma or are a mesothelioma survivor, you are at higher risk of flu-related complications. Therefore, it is very important to protect yourself from being exposed to the virus to begin with, especially during flu season — from October to May.
How Can I Protect Myself From the Flu?
There are plenty of ways that mesothelioma patients can protect themselves from serious flu complications.
Injectable influenza vaccines are approved for mesothelioma patients. In fact, the flu shot has a long and proven history of being safe for cancer patients.
Additionally, people who live with or care for mesothelioma patients are urged to get their flu shots as well to reduce the patient’s risk of getting sick.
Understanding the basics of the flu shot is the best way to make wise decisions to keep yourself and your loved ones safe. Although vaccines are generally not recommended during certain mesothelioma treatments — such as chemotherapy or radiation — the flu shot tends to be the one exception.
However, it’s key that cancer patients know there are two types of vaccines:
- Live virus vaccine: uses a weakened form of the virus
- Inactive virus vaccine: uses proteins taken from killed viruses
Generally speaking, doctors recommend that anyone with weakened immune systems not get vaccines that contain a live virus. This is because they sometimes cause infections that can become life-threatening.
Knowing which vaccines are safe based on your individual situation is very important. Before receiving any vaccines, talk with your doctor. They can help determine which flu shots are safe by looking at your specific cancer diagnosis and treatment plan.
Other precautions to take to protect yourself or your loved one include:
- Avoiding touching your face
- Cleaning and disinfecting surfaces and objects
- Covering coughs and sneezes
- Making sure loved ones follow these same rules
- Staying home if you feel sick
- Washing or sanitizing your hands often
It is essential to remember to contact your doctor if you believe you are getting sick. This is especially important since flu-like symptoms are similar to other serious infections such as COVID-19.
What If I Get the Flu?
If you are experiencing flu-like symptoms, contact your doctor without delay.
Symptoms of the flu include:
- Fever or chills (not everyone with the flu has a fever)
- Muscle and body aches
- Runny nose or congestion
- Sore throat
- Vomiting and diarrhea
You and your doctor should also plan ahead in case you do get sick during flu season. Your plan should include when to call your doctor and how to get prescription medication quickly.
If you have flu-like symptoms or have tested positive for flu, your doctor may suggest:
- Staying home for at least 24 hours after your fever breaks (except when seeking medical attention)
- Keeping away from others to avoid spreading the virus
Your doctor may also prescribe antiviral medications. These drugs can make your symptoms milder and help you recover quicker. They may also reduce the risk of severe complications.
If you are a mesothelioma patient and get a fever, it is critical to call your doctor immediately. It becomes a medical emergency if you get a fever during certain cancer treatments.
The bottom line is that staying in regular communication with your doctor throughout flu season is an important way to stay safe. Keeping an open line of communication can help prevent serious and even life-threatening complications.
To learn more about mesothelioma, get our free Mesothelioma Guide today.