How to protect yourself from Flu during your Cancer Treatment.
The flu season begins in October, peaks in the winter, and can last until May. The flu vaccination is most effective when given early in the season, but receiving it at any time is preferable to not receiving it at all. It is typical to feel a little achiness following the shot as your body adjusts. You’ll be immune for the rest of the flu season in around two weeks. Even if the flu virus this season differs from the ones used in the vaccine, protection can alleviate symptoms.
The flu symptoms are more severe than the cold symptoms. Chills, pains, headache, cough, and fever are common symptoms of the flu. These are less prevalent with a cold, which typically manifests as sneezing, a sore throat, and a congested nose.
People with cancer who are treated with chemotherapy are more likely to get infections. Your immune system helps your body protect itself from getting an infection. Cancer and cancer treatments can weaken the immune system.
The immune system is a complex system the body uses to resist infection by germs, such as bacteria or viruses. When the immune system is weakened, there is a higher risk of infection. Infection is the most common complication in cancer patients.
If you’re getting treatment for cancer, your cancer care team will talk to you about any increased risk for the infection you may have, and what can be done to help prevent infection. Usually, the risk is temporary because the immune system recovers after a period of time, but each person is different.
Watch out for these warning signs and symptoms during ongoing treatment: fever, fatigue, cough, or diarrhea. Keep Cuts, scrapes, or surgical scars clean, and beware of swelling or redness.
Here are some things you can do that might help prevent infection and illness when your immune system is weak due to cancer and/or cancer treatment:
1. Maintain Hygiene: Wash your hands often with soap and warm water. Be sure to wash your hands before eating and before touching your face or mucous membranes. (eyes, nose, mouth, etc.)
- Wash your hands after using the bathroom, blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
- Wash your hands after touching animals, collecting trash, or taking out the garbage.
- Wash your hands after visiting a public place or touching items used by others.
- Carry an alcohol-based hand sanitizer to clean your hands when you’re out.
2. Get Vaccinated: First, stay away from the sick people you know are sick. After consulting your doctor, get your flu shot every fall. Encourage people around you to get vaccinated.
3. Food Safety Tips: Infections can be picked up from food and drinks. So, food safety is very important.
The immune system is weaker than normal. Talk to your cancer care team about whether you need to follow a special diet
During your cancer treatment. Wash your hands before handling any food products. Make sure all meat products are cooked thoroughly to kill any bacteria that may be present.
NOTE: Talk with your doctor about any dietary questions or concerns you may have, or ask to talk with your doctor For more detailed information about safely handling foods, see Food Safety during Cancer Treatment.