Whether you care for someone with a terminal illness, a loved one with cancer, a newborn infant or an elderly parent, as a caregiver you are spending a great deal of time with someone who has a weakened immune system. The flu can be particularly dangerous for these people, and you want to protect them as much as possible.
One of the best ways to protect them from the flu is by getting a flu shot. It will greatly decrease your chances of getting the flu, thus decreasing the chances that you will spread the flu to the person that you care for.
If possible, the person who is immuno-compromised should get the flu vaccine as well. It is recommended by the CDC for everyone in the United States over the age of 6 months old. However, it is not right for everyone.
Those who should not get the flu shot include:
- Those with severe egg allergies
- Anyone with a history of Guillain-Barre syndrome
- People who have had a severe allergic reaction to a flu shot before
- Infants under 6 months old
Those with severely weakened immune systems - such as someone who has just had a bone marrow transplant - should speak with their doctor about the benefits and risks of getting the flu shot.
Flu Shot or Nasal Spray?
The nasal spray flu vaccine is available for healthy people who are not pregnant between the ages of 2 and 49. Many caregivers fall into this category. However, if the person that you care for is severely immuno-compromised, speak to your health care provider to determine if the flu shot would be a better option for you.
It takes a great deal of compassion to be a caregiver. Ensuring you do everything you can to provide the best care possible is essential. Dr. Georgina Peacock from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) puts it this way: "The most important thing people can do to prevent the flu and to protect their loved ones from the flu is to get a flu shot. It is particularly important for those who are at high risk."
The CDC recommends flu shots for everyone over the age of 6 months old, stressing the importance of the vaccine for those at high risk and their caregivers. If you aren't sure, always check with your health care provider to determine if it is right for you.
Interview with Dr. Georgina Peacock. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 25 Oct 10.