Cool temperatures along with influenza mark the season

UC physician-faculty offer tips for beating the flu

CINCINNATI—Fall is in the air and so is influenza. Now is a good time to get a flu shot.

“Flu shots are just starting to roll out now, but we are expecting to see cases of influenza in the coming weeks,” says Dr. Chad Coe, assistant professor of internal medicine in the University of Cincinnati (UC) College of Medicine and a UC Health primary care physician. “Flu season starts in late September and continues through April.”

“The reason we make such a big deal about flu is because it is much more severe than your typical cold virus. Not only are you going to get the runny nose and coughing, but also you are likely to get five to seven days of high fever, chills and body aches. It is a much harsher illness,” says Coe, who sees patients at UC Health Physicians Office in Florence, Kentucky.

“It can affect the lungs more so that’s why we want to immunize area residents, if possible. We know that thousands of people across the nation are hospitalized annually with influenza,” says Coe. “It can be very serious.”

Children younger than 6 months cannot receive flu shots and individuals with severe, life-threatening allergies to the flu vaccine should avoid it. “Infants don’t have the protection so we try to make sure that parents and people around them will be vaccinated and not bring that flu virus home to them,” says Coe.

Most individuals, especially patients with chronic health or respiratory conditions, such as diabetes, heart failure or asthma, will benefit from a flu shot, says Coe.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says residents over the age of 65, pregnant women and cancer patients are also at high risk of complications if they contract the flu.

Dr. Chad Coe

Dr. Chad Coe

Dr. Kyle Kaufman

Dr. Kyle Kaufman

“The risks associated with getting the flu vaccine is exceedingly low compared to its benefit,” says Dr. Kyle Kaufman, assistant professor of internal medicine in the UC College of Medicine and a UC Health primary care physician. “You cannot get the flu from the flu vaccine.”

The flu vaccine reduces the risk of getting influenza by at least 40 percent, says Kaufman, who see patients in UC Health Physicians Office North in West Chester, Ohio.

“Once receiving the flu vaccine it takes a couple of weeks for your body to be optimally protected,” says Kaufman. “Sometimes people are exposed to the flu virus just prior to being vaccinated or shortly after receiving the vaccine. This sometimes leads to the person getting the flu right around the same time they receive the vaccine. This can be frustrating, but it is just coincidental.”

Side effects of a flu shot are uncommon, but can include soreness, redness, swelling at the injection site, headache, fever, nausea or muscle aches. These are typically mild and resolve within a couple of days, says Kaufman.

“Probably the most important thing to understand is that if you get the flu you should be seen right away by a health care provider if you have a cough, body aches and a high fever,” says Coe. “The tipoff is the body aches. You feel very achy almost as if you worked out too hard. If you have those symptoms there is a treatment for the flu that will attenuate those symptoms and shorten the duration of influenza. That needs to be given during the first 48 hours of contracting the flu. That is why it is important to seek treatment right away if you develop those symptoms.”

Other tips if you are among those unfortunate enough to contract influenza include:

  • Avoid close contact with others. This may include staying home from work or school.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with the crook of your elbow when coughing or sneezing.
  • Washing your hands frequently.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
  • Clean frequently touched surfaces at home, work and school.

Tristate residents needing a flu shot can make an appointment with UC Health primary care physicians by calling 513-475-8001.