Thursday, January 16, 2014

TMA Flu Fighters Help Patients Understand Flu

The Texas Medical Association’s (TMA’s) Flu Fighters want to help Texans understand this year’s flu. The TMA Flu Fighters are a group of Texas physician experts in the field of infectious diseases. Their goal is to cull through the national and state data and guidelines and highlight messages most important for patients this flu season.  

Get Vaccinated

It’s not just for people at higher risk of getting the flu. The vaccine is recommended for everyone over the age of 6 months. The vaccine is safe and effective. Despite common misconceptions, the flu vaccine cannot cause flu illness.

When you get the vaccine, you are also protecting the people around you by reducing the spread of the disease. This is critical when you are caring for someone who may be too young to get the flu shot, or for patients who may have a reduced immune response to vaccine.

Are You Part of a High-Risk Group? 

Most people who get the flu will have a mild illness and recover within a couple weeks. However, some people are more likely to get complications from the flu. And for many people having the flu may make existing medical conditions worse.

People who are at high risk for developing complications:

  • Children younger than 5 years, but especially children younger than 2 years;
  • Adults 65 years and older; and 
  • Pregnant and postpartum women.

People who have the following medical conditions also are at high risk:

  • Asthma,
  • Neurological conditions that impair neuromuscular function of breathing;
  • Weakened immune system due to disease or medication (such as HIV or AIDS or cancer, or chronic steroids);
  • Chronic lung disease;
  • Heart disease;
  • Blood disorders; and
  • People who are morbidly obese (body mass index of 40 or greater)

If you are in a high-risk group and develop flu symptoms, contact your doctor promptly.  Remind your doctor of your high-risk status and ask if you are a candidate for antiviral treatment. Prescription antiviral medications can lessen the symptoms of the flu, shorten the time you are sick, and prevent serious flu-related complications that result in hospitalization.

Actions You Can Take to Prevent the Flu

Your day-to-day activities are important in preventing the spread of flu. Steps you can take are these:  

  • Avoid close contact with sick people.
  • If you are sick with flu-like illness, stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone. This means stay home from work.
  • While sick, limit contact with others as much as possible.
  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, and discard that tissue into a waste basket promptly.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Even if you are not in a high-risk group for complications of influenza, visit your doctor f you develop difficulty breathing or chest pain in association with flu-like illness.

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