Diabetes Forecast

Protect Yourself Against the Flu

By Kelly Rawlings, Editorial Director , , ,

More Protection

People with diabetes also are encouraged to get the following:

A pneumococcal vaccination once per lifetime (people 64 and older may need a repeat).

Hepatitis B vaccination (a series of three shots) for people ages 19 to 59; if you're older than 59, ask your doctor.

Besides sparing you fever, body aches, and days stuck on bed rest, avoiding the flu virus is the best way to prevent severe illness, especially when you're already dealing with diabetes. Flu can lead to serious problems such as pneumonia that may require hospitalization. Two experts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Pamela Allweiss, MD, MPH, and Lisa Grohskopf, MD, MPH, share flu-fighting tips:

1. Needle Necessity

"Get a flu shot—that's the best defense against the flu," Allweiss says of the vaccine that people 6 months and older (especially those with any type of diabetes and no matter how well controlled) should receive once yearly. The shot, unlike the nasal mist, contains inactivated virus particles, making it the recommended option for people with health conditions such as diabetes and for pregnant women. Those groups are among those given priority when vaccine supplies are scarce.

2. Time It Right

The best time for the shot is early in flu season, which typically starts in October, peaks in January or February, and can extend into May.

3. Better Late Than Never

Ideally, you'd time the shot for two weeks before the virus circulates in your community. "That gives your immune system time to recognize the virus particles and make antibodies" to fight the virus, Grohskopf says. But getting the shot even after the beginning of flu season is better than going without.

4. Side Effects

The vaccine isn't perfect—some people who get the shot still get the flu. "We know the flu shot can't cause the flu," Grohskopf says. You may have soreness or redness at the injection site and, rarely, tiredness, minor muscle aches, or an elevated temperature for a few days after the shot.

5. The Usual Suspects

Regular hand washing, sneezing into a tissue or the crook of your elbow, avoiding crowds, and keeping up a plan of healthful eating, exercise, and medication are other ways to evade the virus—and to avoid spreading it.

6. Already Ill?

For flu relief, especially for young children, seniors, and people with heart disease or other complications, contact your health care provider as soon as symptoms such as fever, cough, and body aches occur. "Antivirals are most effective within the first 48 hours of contracting the virus," Allweiss says. The CDC suggests that providers begin prescription antivirals right away in high-risk people when flu is suspected—don't wait for a flu test.

7. Sick-Day Plan

Check with your provider about general sick-day guidelines for dosing your medications, fueling your body with food, and drinking enough water.



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