Winter brings health challenges with it for everyone. But it can be especially difficult for mesothelioma patients and others who are coping with a compromised immune system due to illness. It doesn’t seem to matter whether it is actually freezing cold and wet outside. Here in California we are having one of the warmest driest winters in our history and yet our state is still being hit hard by the flu. In just the San Francisco Bay Area counties, 18 flu-related deaths have been reported.
All fatalities involved the influenza A strain H1N1, which the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention identified as the predominant flu virus spreading throughout California and the nation.
So should mesothelioma patients get flu shots?
Every individual mesothelioma patient is different and needs to consult with his or her physician on this one. But based on what the American Cancer Society has to say, the answer for most mesothelioma patients appears to be a resounding yes.
They state that cancer patients are more likely to have serious problems if they get the flu, as are people over 65 and those with lung disease and other medical problems.
But if you are a mesothelioma patient, you should get the inactivated flu shots, NOT the nasal spray. Even a very weak live virus might cause illness in a person with immune system damage from cancer treatment.
Here are some ways the American Cancer Society recommends trying to prevent the flu:
- Wash your hands often. Use soap and warm water or alcohol-based cleaners or wipes.
- Do not touch your eyes or nose. Keep your fingers away from your mouth.
- Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Then throw the tissue in the trash and wash your hands.
- Try to stay away from sick people. At least 6 feet is thought to be a safe distance (except for chickenpox and tuberculosis, which can travel on air currents).
- Try to stay away from small children who spend their days in group settings like day care or school – germs spread easily in these places.
- Be ready just in case you do get sick. Have the things you might need at home (food, tissues, hand cleaners, medicines for cough and fever, and so on) so that you won’t have to go out to get them.
- Take care of yourself. Follow public health advice about outbreaks, like school closings and avoiding crowds.