People with certain health conditions may face special medical challenges during flu season.
These health conditions include:
• Blood disorders (including sickle cell disease)
• Chronic lung disease [including asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)]
• Heart disease
• Kidney disorders
• Liver disorders
• Neurological disorders (including nervous system, brain or spinal cord)
• Neuromuscular disorders (including muscular dystrophy and multiple sclerosis)
• People with weakened immune systems (including people with AIDS or those who are receiving chemotherapy)
It’s important to remember that people who have one or more of the conditions listed above can have a more severe illness from any influenza infection, including illness with the new H1N1 virus. Unless your health care provider says not to, keep taking your medication even if you become sick with the flu. If you have one of these health conditions and you develop flu-like symptoms, contact your health care provider or seek medical care. Flu-like symptoms (including the symptoms of the new H1N1 flu) include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. Some people also may have diarrhea and vomiting.
If you have one of the health conditions listed, during a flu outbreak you should:
• Seek medical attention if you have a fever and symptoms of the flu.
• Limit contact with crowds and avoid crowded places. If you can’t avoid crowded settings, consider wearing a facemask or respirator to decrease your chances of getting infected. Be careful not to touch your face and wash your hands often.
• It is estimated that staying at least six feet away from a person who sneezes or coughs may be a safe distance.
• Talk with your doctor about having a two-week supply of medication.• Keep the name, phone number, and office address of your doctor or health care provider with you at all times. Find out the best way to communicate with your doctor.• Get a written record of the kind of chronic disease(s) you have and the treatment you are receiving. Keep this information with you at all times.
• Prepare a typed or printed list of all medications usually taken and the times of day they are taken. Also include necessary medical supplies or equipment such as syringes, strips, lancets if you have diabetes, or oxygen if you have COPD.
• Determine how you will access ongoing medical care such as chemotherapy or radiation therapy. Ask your health care provider if they have a plan to deal with a severe flu outbreak (including new H1N1 flu).
• If you use medications for your condition, continue taking it even if you become sick with the flu, unless your doctor or health care provider says otherwise.
• Be alert to changes in your breathing, especially if you have heart failure, congestive heart disease or COPD. Promptly report changes to your doctor or health care provider.
• Inform family members or close friends of your medical condition.