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Make a Plan with Your Doctor to Deal with H1N1 Flu

People with cancer are at higher risk for complications from both the H1N1 flu and seasonal flu, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

Talk to your doctor before you or your family gets the flu about how you should manage it.  Your oncologist may want you to stay home and not come into the office if you have symptoms or may want to see you when other patients aren’t in the office.

You may also want to avoid emergency rooms when there is a lot of flu in your community.  Discuss how you should handle non-flu medical emergencies or complications from your cancer treatment during the flu season to avoid contact with flu patients.  Your doctor may advise you to call first before going to the hospital or an emergency room.

The CDC has recommendations for what to do if you get sick with the flu.

Patients with severe symptoms should get urgent medical care.  Call your doctor and get medical care right away if you or a family member has one of the emergency warning signs:

  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
  • Sudden dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Severe or persistent vomiting

Emergency warning signs in children include:

  • Fast breathing or trouble breathing
  • Bluish skin color
  • Not drinking enough fluids
  • Not waking up or not interacting
  • Being so irritable that the child does not want to be held
  • Flu-like symptoms improve but then return with fever and worse cough
  • Fever with a rash

According to the CDC, people with compromised immune systems should not get vaccine that contains live virus such as the nasal spray H1N1 vaccine. Talk to your doctor about getting flu shots with killed virus for both H1N1 and seasonal flu.

People from 25 through 64 years of age with certain chronic medical conditions or a weakened immune system are among those prioritized to receive H1N1 flu shots first.

Dr. Joe Bresee, with CDC’s Influenza Division, describes the symptoms of swine flu and warning signs to look for that indicate the need for urgent medical attention.

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