New Brunswick, N.J., October 11, 2022 – Despite the refreshing changes the season brings as the temperature slowly drops, it also comes with the seasonal flu. Just about anyone is susceptible to flu viruses, but cancer patients can be especially vulnerable. Carolyn Hayes, PhD, RN, NEA-BC, FAAN chief nursing officer at Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey, the state’s leading cancer program and only National Cancer Institute-Designated Comprehensive Cancer Center, and RWJBarnabas Health Oncology Services, shares what cancer patients and their families should know about the upcoming flu season, which begins in October.
Stay informed and know the symptoms. Influenza (flu) is a contagious respiratory illness caused by different viruses spread through aerosol droplets. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, flu symptoms include:
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- Sore throat
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Muscle pain or body aches
- Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea
Get vaccinated for the flu. There is a safe and effective flu vaccine available each year to help protect you against several strains of influenza. Cancer treatment can weaken a person’s immune system, so it is important for these patients to be vaccinated against the flu to ensure that their health and cancer treatment are not compromised. This applies to cancer survivors as well. In addition, even if you are not immune compromised, you should protect those who are. Family members, caregivers and anyone with close contact with patients undergoing cancer treatment should also get the flu vaccine.
Take steps to protect everyone. Along with getting the flu shot, it is important to follow everyday safety precautions to help prevent contracting the flu. The World Health Organization recommends regular hand washing, avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth, monitoring your health and avoiding being around sick people as well as isolating yourself if you do contract the flu.
Take care of yourself. Implement strategies to strengthen your immune system this cold and flu season. Get enough sleep, eat nutritious meals, drink plenty of water, engage in regular exercise and find ways to manage the stress in your life.
Talk to your health care team. If you’re uncertain how the flu vaccine might affect you as a cancer survivor or someone who is undergoing treatment, be sure to speak to your health care professional to learn more.
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