Cold and flu season with cancer

As the season changes and ushers in colder temperatures, cold and flu season begins too. The influenza virus, commonly known as the flu, presents many symptoms similar to the common cold; respiratory inflammation, cough, sore throat, stuffy or runny nose, fever, and aches are common symptoms for both. However, the flu generally presents more aggressive symptoms and some people may experience vomiting and/or diarrhea as well. For cancer patients, having an immune system that is already compromised makes cold and flu season especially precarious.

Whether you are currently fighting cancer, are a cancer survivor, or are a cancer caregiver, knowing how to handle cold and flu season is important. According to the Center for Disease Control, while it isn’t known if a cancer patient or cancer survivor are at a greater risk for infection with the flu, it is known that cancer patients and survivors are at a higher risk for complications from the flu. Here are some tips to help ward off this year’s cold and flu season.

Get the Flu Shot

The flu shot is recommended for anyone with a history of cancer or any disease that leaves a person with a weakened immune system. Those who are a caregiver for a cancer patient should get the flu shot for their own health and for the benefit of not becoming ill while trying to care for a patient. You can find many clinics and pharmacies that offer free flu shots, too.

Adopt Good Health Habits

While it may seem like common sense, washing your hands often, especially after handling food, using the bathroom, or while sick, will help keep you healthier. However, 95% of people don’t wash their hands properly, so it’s important to take the time to wash your hands properly and avoid touching your face with them. Keep in mind that many items that you handle often (your cell phone, computer, money, etc.) are very dirty so don’t underestimate how often you should wash up.

Stay at Home

The best medicine for avoiding illness and getting over one is to get plenty of rest at home. If you’re a cancer patient, it may be a good idea to avoid large groups of people, like at work or family parties. If you’ve had a fever, stay home an additional 24 hours after your fever breaks to be sure the illness has run it’s course. Keep your home stocked and ready for flu season too. Stock up your medicine cabinet with over-the-counter medicine and any other remedy that will keep you comfortable and feeling better at home.

Build Up Your Immune System

Whether you are sick with the flu or not, treating yourself well while going through cancer treatments is always important. Make sure to eat well, since getting plenty of nutrients and vitamins can help minimize side effects of treatments. Fill your diet with a lot of veggies and unprocessed foods. Consider exercise if you and your doctor agree that it’s safe. Even doing yoga or stretches is good for an achy, sick body and is also helpful to make you feel better during treatments.