Flu Season: A Guide for Patients and Caregivers

Chief, Infectious Diseases, Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center
Monday, November 5, 2012 - 11:39am

We all know what it’s like to get hit by the flu. The muscle aches and fever make us want to stay in bed for a few days until we recuperate. However, for those who are fighting cancer, the flu can lead to far more serious complications. Patients with cancer should take precautions to avoid getting the flu and let their caregiver know if they are experiencing flu-like symptoms.

Cancer patients are more susceptible to the flu because their immune systems can be impaired due to chemotherapy and radiation, and their ability to fight off infection may be weakened. Older patients and those with significant medical problems such as lung or heart disease also have an increased risk of flu-related complications.

Here at Roswell Park, we have respiratory etiquette policies, restricting visitors with respiratory or flu-like symptoms from visiting the wards. They are at risk of transmitting viruses and should not be near patients.

I also cannot stress enough the importance of getting a flu shot. There are benefits for patients to receive flu shots, although the level of protection may not be as high as people with normal immune systems. However, if you are a caregiver or health care worker, you should get immunized not only to protect yourself, but also the patients you treat and care for.