It’s that time of year: falling leaves, football games, Halloween, and…flu shots. Yes, once again, it’s time to get your flu shot! But do you know about the other two vaccines that you should consider getting as well? Let’s take a look at the top three vaccines you need to keep you healthy
Chances are, you’ve had the flu at some point in your life. I remember having the flu as a child and feeling completely miserable and ill. Fevers, chills, achiness…ugh! Having the flu when you have diabetes is more serious, however. If you get the flu — and if you’re lucky — you may be laid up for a few days. However, people who have diabetes (both Type 1 and Type 2) are at very high risk for becoming seriously ill if they get the flu. Complications from this nasty virus include bronchitis, sinusitis, ear infection, and pneumonia. You can easily end up in the hospital. In some cases, having the flu can be fatal (estimates suggest that thousands of Americans die from the flu each year).
Symptoms of the flu include:
• Fever and/or chills
• Sore throat
• Runny or stuffy nose
• Muscle or body aches
• Fatigue (tiredness)
• Vomiting and diarrhea (more common in children than adults)
Complications of the flu include:
• Ear infection
• Inflammation of the heart (myocarditis)
• Inflammation of the brain (encephalitis)
• Inflammation of muscles (myositis)
Having the flu can worsen existing medical conditions, as well, such as heart disease or asthma. Keep in mind, too, that the flu is very contagious. Someone who has the flu can spread it to others from about six feet away. The flu can be easily spread through eating utensils, dishes, and linens, too.
Get your flu shot! The strain of the flu virus changes every year, which is why you need to get a flu shot annually. There’s no guarantee that you won’t get the flu, but at least you have a fighting chance. The flu season typically starts in October, so make it a point to get your shot each fall, as you’ll be protected during the roughly four to six months of flu season. By the way, in case you were thinking of getting the nasal vaccine, you’re out of luck. The CDC has recommended that the nasal flu vaccine not be used this year, as it doesn’t effectively protect against this year’s strain of flu.
Pneumonia is a serious infection that is most commonly caused by pneumococcal bacteria (although other bacteria, viruses, and fungi can cause it, too). One out of every 20 adults who gets pneumonia dies from it. The recommendation is that everyone with diabetes over the age of two get a pneumonia shot. Unlike the flu shot, you can get a pneumonia shot at any time of the year. If you’re older than 65 and you had the vaccine more than five years ago, you should get another shot.
Symptoms of pneumonia include:
• Chest pain upon breathing or coughing
• Shortness of breath
• Fever and chills
• Low body temperature
• Nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea
Complications of pneumonia include:
• Blood infection (bacteremia)
• Inflammation of the heart lining (pericarditis)
• Collapsed lung
• Sinus and ear infections
Pneumonia can be mild, but likewise, it can be very serious and even fatal. Make it a point to add the pneumonia vaccine to your “to-do” list. There are different types of pneumonia vaccines. Ask your health-care provider about the type that is recommended for you.
Hepatitis B vaccine
Hepatitis B is a contagious liver disease caused by the hepatitis B (hep B) virus. It’s highly contagious and easily transmitted (spread). The hep B virus can survive outside of the body for at least a week and can cause infection if it’s transmitted to someone. People who have diabetes are at higher risk for this infection, especially if they share blood glucose meters, lancets, or insulin syringes or pens. In 2011, the CDC recommended that all adults with diabetes younger than age 60 get vaccinated. For adults age 60 and older, vaccination should be at the discretion of the person’s health-care provider (taking into account that those living in assisted-living facilities or nursing homes are at higher risk of contracting the infection). Children and adolescents with diabetes should also get the hep B vaccine.
Symptoms of hepatitis B include:
• Abdominal pain
• Dark urine
• Yellowing of the skin and eyes (jaundice)
• Nausea and vomiting
• Decreased appetite
• Joint or muscle pain
Complications of hepatitis B include:
• Chronic liver infection
• Liver failure
• Liver cancer
At this time, there is no cure for hepatitis B, so the best course of action is to prevent it in the first place, which means getting vaccinated. Also, never share any blood glucose monitoring devices, syringes, pen needles, or pump infusion sets with someone. The hep B vaccine usually needs to be given as three to four shots over a six-month period.
Keep in mind that having any of the above illnesses will likely raise your blood glucose levels and possibly make it difficult to manage them. High blood glucose levels put you at risk for developing other types of infections, as well. Be sure to have a sick-day plan in place in case you become ill.
If you are not feeling well, it may be advised not to get any of these vaccines until you are feeling better.
If you have concerns about getting any of these vaccines, talk with your health-care provider. Some vaccines do have risks associated with them, so you and your provider should weigh the pros and cons together. However, in general, it’s highly advised for most people with diabetes to get these three vaccines.
Any person with Type 1 diabetes who accomplishes a physical challenge should be really proud of themselves, says runner Stephanie Tomko. Bookmark DiabetesSelfManagement.com and tune in tomorrow to read more.