Experts answer most common questions about flu

January 11, 2013 9:31:37 AM PST
As more people in our area and across the country come down with the flu, you may have concerns and questions about how to protect yourself and your family.

We've been following the rise in flu cases for many weeks, so we asked experts the questions people still have about the flu, what to do, and practical ways to protect yourself and your family.

What do you do if you suspect you have the flu?

Antiviral drugs like Tamiflu shortens and reduces flu severity. Tamiflu is often prescribed because it fights both Influenza "A" and "B." But it must be started in 24 hours. Pharmacies have plenty of adult dose Tamiflu, but not the liquid for toddlers.

"We do have a problem getting the children's suspension in stock. We do have the ability to make the suspension for people who need it," Kroger pharmacist Susan Curtis said.

What if I can't get into my doctor?

You can go a convenience clinic in stores or shopping centers. But beware: If you go to a freestanding emergency center, you will be charged emergency room rates.

Can pregnant women get Tamiflu to prevent them from getting the flu?

Doctors say yes if they're sick, no as a prevention.

"Pregnant women can take Tamiflu but generally we want to minimize or control the number of medications that child is exposed to," said Laura Rooney, a DNP nurse practitioner at UTHealth services.

Should other family members take Tamiflu when one person gets sick?

"When someone in the family is diagnosed with the flu it doesn't necessarily mean everyone in the family should get a prescription for Tamiflu. If we over-prescribe Tamiflu, that leads to a potential resistance when Tamiflu wouldn't work anymore," Rooney said.

Is it too late to get the flu shot?

No, but it takes two weeks to protect you.

How hard is it to get the flu shot?

It's easy. You don't need a prescription and you can get the shot at many Houston pharmacies..often without waiting in line.

Will they run out of flu vaccine?

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention says there's enough. Experts at Baylor's Influenza center agree.

"The flu shot itself is painless; it's an inactive virus; it doesn't cause disease; it doesn't make you hurt; it doesn't give you the flu. I don't see any reason why they just can't come in and get a shot," Curtis said.

One more thing: If you or someone you love has health problems such as diabetes or heart problems, you may want to ask for a Tamiflu prescription as a flu prevention.

But here's another thing to consider: There are some side effects with Tamiflu. They are reportedly rare, but one side effect that has been seen in a Houston teenager is an unusual change in behavior. So take if you need it, but realize Tamiflu is a strong drug.

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