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Josyann Abisaab: Flu Season Means Flu Shots

Josyann Abisaab: Flu Season Means Flu Shots

Winter is fast approaching, and along with cold, stormy weather comes the influenza virus. To be more accurate, the flu is actually a group of many different viruses which all cause similar symptoms. Each winter international teams of researchers and doctors estimate which types and strains of viruses will spread the most widely throughout the world in any given year, and then vaccines are prepared to protect against the three  strains of flu considered most dangerous or likely to spread worldwide.

There are three ways to receive a flu shot which are delivered via  needle, usually in the arm: the normal shot which is approved for all people older than 6 months; a high-dose vaccine which is approved for those over 65 years old; and an intradermal shot for those between 18 and 64 years old.

Also available for use in healthy people ages 2 to 49 who are not pregnant is the nasal-spray flu vaccine. This is made with live, but weakened flu viruses, as opposed to the ‘shot’ which uses killed viruses. The nasal spray is also called LAIV, which stands for “Live Attenuated Influenza Vaccine.”

The best time to get vaccinated is as soon as the vaccine comes available. It takes about two weeks after administration of the shot to develop immunity to the flu, so the sooner the vaccine is given, the sooner people are protected. However, just because it may be late in the season is not a reason to refrain from getting the flu shot. The CDC recommends getting vaccinated from October all the way to May, reasoning that different viruses circulate in different places at different times, and it is always wise to get protection.

Josyann Abisaab, MD wishes all a healthy flu season this winter.

Josyann Abisaab: Flu Season is Back-To the ER or Not, That is the Question

Josyann Abisaab: Flu Season is Back-To the ER or Not, That is the Question

Knowing when to go, and when to refrain from going to the emergency room can not only save you time, and money, but it can also save your life.

When the flu strikes there is no question that you should be examined by a health care professional, but the question is how urgent is it that you are checked immediately, or can you wait to make a short-notice appointment with your doctor?

The determination of whether or not to go to the emergency room should be based on how ill you are. Also, if there are other chronic conditions present as well. For instance, if someone with diabetes, asthma, COPD or congestive heart failure develops flu symptoms, he/she should be seen within one day by their regular doctor. If a short-notice appointment cannot be made, then a trip to the emergency room is in order.

Pregnant women should also take the flu seriously, more so than non-pregnant women. Other generally healthy people, including children are usually better off staying home, even if they are not eating during their illness. As long as the patient is holding down liquids, there is no immediate health threat if a person, including a child, does not eat for a week, or even two.

The following symptoms may indicate that the patient may need antiviral drugs like Tamiflu, or even the need for hospitalization:

•    Fever of 102 degrees or higher
•    Serious fatigue
•    Stubborn cough with either yellow or green phlegm
•    Difficulty breathing, shortness of breath
•    Confusion
•    Feeling light-headed or thirsty from dehydration which can be caused by vomiting and/or diarrhea.

Josyann Abisaab, MD, is an emergency room physician at New York-Presbyterian, as well as an Assistant Professor of Clinical Medicine at the Weill Cornell Medical College.