What do I need to know about the flu and Parkinson’s? Should I get the flu vaccine?
The risk of getting the flu increases as the Fall months turn into Winter. Common flu symptoms are fever, cough, malaise, aching or sore muscles, respiratory symptoms, lack of energy and less common in adults gastrointestinal symptoms. Although the flu can be caused by different viruses, a seasonal flu vaccine is available yearly with the most common virus to cause the flu is influenza type A.
The flu can be serious for some individuals especially the very young or elderly, people on immune suppressant medication, and people with chronic medical conditions. The flu can cause problems for people with PD as well. As with any illness, PD motor symptoms and cognitive problems can worsen while you are ill. Fever and decreased fluid intake can lead to dehydration and weight loss. If you have trouble swallowing you may also find it is more difficult to cough and clear secretions due to nasal congestion and bronchitis. An extended time in bed recovering from the flu can cause additional weakness leading to more fatigue with movement and increasing your risk of falls if you have balance problems.
Amantadine is a PD medicine used to treat motor symptoms and dyskinesia. Amantadine was originally used as an anti-influenza medicine to aid recovery from flu symptoms. You should still consider getting the flu vaccine even if you are on amantadine as this medicine will not protect you from the flu. Antiviral medicines can help reduce flu severity if started within 2 days of symptom onset. Oseltamivir (Tamiflu®) is approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use in children 1 year of age or older. Zanamivir (Relenza®), is approved for treatment in children 7 years and older, but is licensed only for use in people without underlying respiratory or heart disease, including people with asthma.
Accordig to the CDC's Facts about the seasonal flu
, the viruses in the vaccine change each year based on international surveillance and scientists' estimations about which types and strains of viruses will circulate in a given year. "The seasonal flu vaccine protects against three influenza viruses that research indicates will be most common during the upcoming season. The 2010-2011 flu vaccine
will protect against 2009 H1N1, and two other influenza viruses (an H3N2 virus and an influenza B virus). About 2 weeks after vaccination, antibodies that provide protection against influenza virus infection develop in the body."
There are two types of vaccines:
- The "flu shot" — an inactivated vaccine (containing killed virus) that is given with a needle, usually in the arm. The flu shot is approved for use in people older than 6 months, including healthy people and people with chronic medical conditions.
Flu Shot: Vaccination Information Statement (VIS)
- The nasal-spray flu vaccine —a vaccine made with live, weakened flu viruses that do not cause the flu (sometimes called LAIV for "live attenuated influenza vaccine" or FluMist®). LAIV (FluMist®) is approved for use in healthy* people 2-49 years of age who are not pregnant.
Nasal Spray: Vaccination Information Statement (VIS)
Wash your hands often to reduce the spread of infection. Stay home from work or other public outing if you experience flu symptoms. Remember to drink plenty of fluids, get the rest you need, eat to be sure you get the nutrition you need to fight your infection. Talk to your doctor or healthcare provider about treatments available to relieve the discomfort of fever, pain, and cold like symptoms. Be sure to see your healthcare provider if you have cough, symptoms greater than or are immunocompromised. Some cold medicines should not be used if you are taking certain PD medicines such as MAO B inhibitors. Learn more about the safe use of cold medicines
Be sure to talk to your neurologist or primary care provider
to see if the flu vaccines are right for you.
Author: Monique Giroux,