It’s flu season. Most of us take it in stride. Some will be affected by the nasty bug while others will make it through the winter virtually unscathed, perhaps dealing with a sniffle or two, a few aches, but nothing significant. Many will opt for the flu vaccine while others will take their chances.
But for mesothelioma patients, avoiding the flu can be a matter of life or death…literally.
Cancer and the flu
For most individuals, a bout with the flu is simply an annoyance. It means needing to stay home from work, missing out on that great party, or simply feeling awful for a few days.
But for those living with cancer of any sort, the risk of complications from the flu rise exponentially, and these complications could result in hospitalization and may even be fatal.
Strains of the flu that affect the chest are especially horrendous for individuals with malignant pleural mesothelioma, a disease that affects the lining of the lungs and makes breathing difficult.
A flu virus or severe cold that settles in the lungs makes breathing next to impossible for those whose breathing is already compromised and the patient could potentially require close monitoring that can only be accomplished in a hospital setting.
For mesothelioma patients undergoing chemotherapy, the chances of catching the flu are high. That’s because a chemo patient’s immune system becomes severely compromised and just a casual connection with someone who has the flu can result in the patient becoming infected as well.
What about flu shots?
One often hears stories about how individuals who receive flu shots get sicker from the shot than they would have if they had gotten the flu. It’s a chance one takes when opting for the vaccine.
However, the American Cancer Society adamantly states that cancer patients – particularly those undergoing chemotherapy or who have recently undergone chemotherapy – must have the shot, unless specifically told by their oncologist not to have it.
In many cases, a chemo patient should consider the pneumonia vaccine as well.
Furthermore, it’s essential that caregivers and others who come in close and frequent contact with the mesothelioma patient get the flu vaccine as well in order to avoid infecting that person.
Mesothelioma cancer patients and those who care for them need to be aware of all situations that may result in exposure to influenza.
- Stay aware from children who are regular daycare attendees, especially if the disease has been circulating through that environment. If a child who is in daycare or preschool must be in the same house, keep them a reasonable distance from the patient and wash their hands often.
- The patient should also wash their hands frequently using warm water and antibacterial soaps, scrubbing for at least 30 seconds.
- Be sure that surfaces the patient touches frequently are cleaned with an alcohol-based sanitizer. This includes home and cell phones, computer keyboards, door handles, and countertops.
If the mesothelioma patient begins to experience flu symptoms, he or she should call their doctor immediately for instructions as to how to combat the disease.
They may be prescribed antiviral meds or the physician may recommend some other course of action depending on the patient’s individual case.