Each year, an estimated 5% to 30% of all Americans go to their local pharmacy, medical clinic, or doctor to get a yearly flu shot. However, there has been much speculation as to whether mesothelioma patients should also get an annual flu shot. According to mesothelioma experts and physicians, the answer is yes, unless there is any pertinent reasons that would make it unsafe, such as pneumonia or other complications.
It’s recommended that everyone over 6 months of age get the flu shot each year, particularly those who fit the following criteria:
- Women who are or will become pregnant during the flu season
- People who reside in nursing homes
- People with chronic lung conditions
- People with chronic heart conditions
- Caregivers of those with chronic lung and/or heart conditions
- People with diabetes
- Children under 5 years of age
- Anyone who might come into contact with the high-risk groups
Per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 20% of people develop the flu each year. Its symptoms closely mimic the first symptoms that generally surface in those who have pleural mesothelioma: fatigue, malaise, fever, congestion, a runny nose, and congestion. Other symptoms resemble peritoneal mesothelioma symptoms, including stomach pain, cramping, diarrhea, and vomiting.
Mesothelioma Patients and Flu Shots
Since mesothelioma patients are dealing with a weakened immune system, the flu shot is important, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS). However, each patient is different, with unique needs, so it’s important to talk to a physician beforehand. ACS also recommends that people with mesothelioma should do everything possible to avoid contracting the flu, including:
- Wash hands thoroughly and regularly with warm water and antibacterial soap
- Keep your hands away from your mouth and nose as much as possible
- Keep your distance from ill people as much as possible
- Try to stay away from children who go to day cares and nurseries during the flu season; if you care for a child, make sure to always keep their hands clean
- Clean surfaces and products that you use each day thoroughly with an alcohol-based sanitizer, including computer keyboards, counter tops, door handles, phones, and even pens or pencils.
- Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when sneezing, then properly dispose of the tissue in a trash can
Another question many mesothelioma patients ask is if the flu shot is recommended for chemotherapy patients. According to Susie Stonehouse-Lee, a Nurse Practitioner at Penn Medicine, not only is it recommended for patients who are undergoing chemotherapy to get a flu shot, but it’s also extremely crucial to get the shot as chemotherapy patients generally have a weaker immune system due to decreased blood counts, placing them at a heightened risk of catching the flu.
In addition to the flu shot, ACS recommends that mesothelioma patients should ask their physicians about the pneumonia shot as well.
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