I am concerned about how to manage through the flu season while also dealing with my PAN. What are precautions I should be taking?
What can you do? Most important is to get vaccinated by the flu vaccine, the shot and not the nasal vaccine. You should have a pneumovac every 10 years. Hand washing is the single most important thing you can do. Wash your hands every time you come home from being in the public. Wash your hands before you eat or tough your mouth, nose or eyes. Wash with fresh water and soap. The antibacterial instant gel is just as effective and helpful if you are some place you can not get to soap and water. The biggest problem with hand washing is getting very dry skin and sometimes cracks in the fingers by the nail beds. Bath & Body Works has a gel glove you can wear at night time that could help with the dry hands, I have also seen them in other catalogs and they run about $40 but can be washed and used several time. Using a good hand lotion also helps.
What to do if you start to get sick? Influenza causes a fever, but remember while on prednisone you might not get a fever. You need to see your primary care provider as soon as possible. We have tests that can screen for influenza and we now have medication to treat influenza A & B but it needs to be started with in 72 hours of onset of symptoms to be effective. That is why you need to be seen ASAP. The same drugs can be used to prevent influenza, so if you know you have been exposed you can start on the meds right away.
Wearing a mask may not be as helpful, most of the time we are exposed from touching, ie. door knobs then our face. If you need to go on an airplane, ask your doctor about going on meds to prevent influenza (same drug that treats influenza). They tend to be expensive, but cheaper than an hospitalization.
The cold virus likes a cold environment, that is why they are more common in the winter. The air is colder that goes into the nose, thus the virus thrives better. That is why staying warm is important, but just getting a chill will not make you sick unless you are exposed to the virus.
Many people die from a secondary bacterial infection that causes pneumonia. That is why the pneumovac is important. It covers 23 strains of Strep. pneumonia. It does not cover all causes of pneumonia, but it helps a lot.
I hope this is helpful to everyone. The advise is also for family members, as they can bring the virus into the home.