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What to do if you get the flu

Personalized Vaccines for Cancer

Image of Shawna Kraft, Pharm.D
Shawna Kraft, Pharm.D.

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With flu season coming, be sure to talk to your doctor about the flu vaccine. It offers a great deal of protection and is generally safe for people going through cancer treatment. But, even with the vaccine, you may still come down with the flu.

To treat flu, your doctor may prescribe an antiviral medication. Antiviral medications can make symptoms less severe and shorten the length of time that you are sick with the flu. Three antiviral medications are available to treat the flu, each with slightly different common side effects:

  • Tamiflu (oseltamivir), oral medication, may cause nausea or vomiting

  • Relenza (zanamivir), inhaled medication, may cause headache, throat pain, nasal symptoms or cough

  • Rapivab (peramivir), intravenous medication, may cause decreased blood counts or diarrhea

Over-the-counter medications may also help with flu symptoms such as fever, chills, cough, sore throat, runny nose, achiness, headache and tiredness. Medications such as acetaminophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen (Motrin or Advil), or naproxen (Naprosyn or Aleve) may help with fever, aches and pain. For a stuffy nose, you may be able to take decongestants such as phenylephrine or pseudoephedrine with or without guaifenesin (an expectorant). These cough and cold medicines often also contain acetaminophen, ibuprofen or naproxen. Be sure to read the label so you don't accidentally double on the pain medications. If you have high blood pressure, you may not be able to take some of the cough and cold products. Always be sure to ask your doctor's office or pharmacist.

Continue reading the Fall, 2015 issue of Thrive.

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Thrive Issue: 
Fall, 2015