The cold and flu season is upon us again, and this year it has gotten off to "about the earliest start in the last decade," according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Dawn Isherwood, Health Educator for the Lupus Foundation of America, writes about a few ways to avoid the cold and flu this season.
’Tis the Season for Prevention
As we approach winter, phrases like “Season’s Greetings” and “’Tis the Season” spring to mind. At the Lupus Foundation of America, we’re thinking of a different kind of season: flu season. During this time of year, getting a flu shot should be at the top of your to-do list. Why? Because people with lupus are at increased risk for infections (like the flu), compared to others. Having lupus also means that if you do get sick, it may take longer to recover, compared to someone without the disease.
A yearly flu shot is the best way to prevent the flu.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the best way to prevent the flu is by getting vaccinated every year. In fact, studies show that getting the flu shot can significantly reduce:
- doctors’ visits;
- missed days of work;
- and deaths.
Get the shot, not the nasal spray.
If you have lupus, doctors recommend that you get the flu shot every year. However, make sure that you request a flu shot, and not the The FluMist® nasal (nose) spray. Unlike the shot, the FluMist nasal spray contains a live form the of the flu virus, which is not recommended for people with lupus, or anyone who lives with a person with lupus.
You gain a lot more than you might lose by getting the flu shot every year.
Although there is not good evidence, it is thought that some vaccines can occasionally trigger a flare. However, people with lupus generally do not have any side effects from the flu shot.
In general, the benefits of receiving the flu shot greatly outweigh the potential risks of experiencing a flare. If you are pregnant or have had allergic reactions to these vaccines in the past, talk to your doctor before receiving one.
This year, make the flu shot the first step toward a healthier holiday season. You can find more lupus specific information about the flu and pneumonia vaccines, including tips to curb the spread of disease on the Lupus Foundation of America’s website. If you’re interested in learning more about the flu, and would like the most up to date information about the flu vaccine, visit the U.S. Department of Health & Human Service’s website, www.flu.gov.
R. Paola Daly, Outcomes & Health Senior Manager, Lupus Foundation of America, shares her experience from the annual American College of Rheumatology meeting in San Diego and great tools she learned about on living well with lupus.