KEEP Healthy

Dr. SpryAsk the Doctor with Dr. Leslie Spry, MD, FACP

Answers to Your Health Questions

Q. The holiday season may be all about sharing, but most people prefer to skip the shared germs. With many festive gatherings -- filled with travel and crowded rooms -- on the horizon, what tips do you have for staying healthy and avoiding getting sick?

A. Here are some tips on staying healthy and avoiding sharing germs during the season of sharing.

  • Avoid crowds if you are sick. This is the fastest way to start an epidemic.
  • Wash your hands frequently and carry hand sanitizer with you when you don't have access to soap and water. Soap and water are still the best.
  • Get a flu shot and make sure you are up to date on all of your vaccinations including pneumonia vaccine and whooping cough vaccine.
  • Use your sleeve to cover a cough and sneeze, rather than your hand.
  • Airline travel is the worst. You may want to consider masks if you travel by plane in the flu season. This is done in other countries.
  • Get plenty of rest and drink plenty of fluids.
  • Keep physically active to maintain your overall health.
  • Children in daycare bring home many different viral and bacterial infections. If you are a new transplant recipient or are immunosuppressed, you may want to avoid young children in daycare during the flu season.
  • Call your physician if fever is over 100 degrees, shaking chills, or productive cough. Call your physician if you have symptoms beyond 7 days, but avoid showing up in a crowded waiting room unless told to do so by your physician.

Q. Who's most at risk for catching the flu? Who do you recommend receive a flu shot this year?

A. Those at highest risk for catching the flu are pregnant women, the elderly (age over 65), and nursing home residents. Immunosuppressed individuals such as transplant recipients, patients on chemotherapy for cancer, patients being treated with steroids or immune suppressing drugs for arthritis, vasculitis, kidney disease, or other systemic illnesses are very prone to suffer from the flu. If you have lung disease, serious heart disease, or have a weakened immune system for any reason, you are much more likely to contract influenza.

Everyone older than age 6 months should be vaccinated with influenza vaccine unless you are allergic to eggs, have had prior allergic reactions to the flu vaccine or have had Guillian Barre syndrome as a complication of the influenza vaccine. Immune suppressed individuals listed above and children less than 2 years of age should not get the nasal influenza vaccine known as "FluMist". This is a live virus vaccine and should be avoided by these individuals.

The more people that get vaccinated, the less likely an influenza epidemic can be started in any community. Even if you are low risk for influenza, your vaccination may prevent someone in a very weakened state from getting a life-threatening case of influenza. This is known as "herd immunity".

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