Fight Flu and Pneumonia: Get Vaccinated!


October is here, and fall is starting to settle in. Here in Massachusetts, the leaves have started to turn their brilliant colors, people are getting ready for Halloween, and yes, Christmas decorations have hit the stores. It’s also Columbus Day weekend, a time of year when I dig out my warmer clothes and do some fall cleaning. The squirrels are scurrying around, burying acorns, preparing for what will probably be a long, cold winter. Do you do anything special this time of year?

Flu Facts
One thing that’s important for people with diabetes to do every fall is to get a flu vaccination, or flu shot. My local Walgreens pharmacy is offering flu shots, and I’m sure other pharmacies are, as well. Actually, getting a flu shot is usually recommended for almost everyone, whether a person has diabetes or not. But people with diabetes should be particularly vigilant about getting a flu shot. Here are some facts and figures about the flu and diabetes:

Symptoms of the flu include:

Make sure you have a sick day plan in place before you get sick; this means that you know what to do with your meal plan and medication when you’re not feeling well. But, as the saying goes, prevention is the best medicine, so get a flu shot every year, wash your hands often (especially before eating), and limit your contact with people who are sick. Encourage your family and people with whom you live to get vaccinated, as well.

Pneumonia Facts
As you think about getting a flu shot, think about getting a pneumococcal vaccine or Pneumovax, too. Just like the flu, people with diabetes are more likely to develop pneumonia and suffer serious complications. Pneumonia can result from the flu, and symptoms include fever, cough, fatigue, shallow breathing, and chest wall pain.

Fortunately, the chances of getting pneumonia are greatly reduced as long as you get vaccinated. Unlike the flu vaccine, which is needed every year, you usually only need a Pneumovax once in your lifetime. However, people under the age of 65 who have had a Pneumovax should get another one 5 to 10 years after their first one. Find out if you’ve had a Pneumovax, and if not, talk to your physician about getting one. The pneumonia vaccine is covered by Medicare Part B as well as many other health insurance plans.

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Amy Campbell: Amy Campbell is the author of Staying Healthy with Diabetes: Nutrition and Meal Planning and a frequent contributor to Diabetes Self-Management and Diabetes & You. She has co-authored several books, including the The Joslin Guide to Diabetes and the American Diabetes Association’s 16 Myths of a “Diabetic Diet,” for which she received a Will Solimene Award of Excellence in Medical Communication and a National Health Information Award in 2000. Amy also developed menus for Fit Not Fat at Forty Plus and co-authored Eat Carbs, Lose Weight with fitness expert Denise Austin. Amy earned a bachelor’s degree in nutrition from Simmons College and a master’s degree in nutrition education from Boston University. In addition to being a Registered Dietitian, she is a Certified Diabetes Educator and a member of the American Dietetic Association, the American Diabetes Association, and the American Association of Diabetes Educators. Amy was formerly a Diabetes and Nutrition Educator at Joslin Diabetes Center, where she was responsible for the development, implementation, and evaluation of disease management programs, including clinical guideline and educational material development, and the development, testing, and implementation of disease management applications. She is currently the Director of Clinical Education Content Development and Training at Good Measures. Amy has developed and conducted training sessions for various disease and case management programs and is a frequent presenter at disease management events.

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