Ask The Nurse: Colds, Flu and the Flu Vaccine

This month’s Ask The Nurse blog will focus on colds, flu and the flu vaccine.

Ask The Nurse // 30th November 2018

Now that winter is well under way and the weather is getting much colder, the Myeloma Infoline and Ask the Nurse Services have seen an increase in the number of queries about the cold and flu, and in particular, the nasal spray flu vaccine given to young children. Therefore, this month’s blog will focus on colds, flu and the flu vaccine.

Can I catch the flu from a child who has received the nasal spray flu vaccine?

The nasal spray flu vaccine is a live vaccine and carries only a small risk of infecting others. Someone receiving the vaccine can shed small amounts of the vaccine virus via their body fluids (such as saliva, blood, faeces or the blisters of a skin rash) and infect others for a short while following vaccination.

The risk of catching the flu may be slightly higher for myeloma patients whose myeloma is active or for those on treatment, especially high-dose therapy and stem cell transplantation (HDT-SCT), because their immune system is weakened.

To err on the side of caution, we would suggest that myeloma patients avoid close contact with anyone who has had the live vaccine for up to two weeks.

In saying that, the risk of the virus being passed on is low. Therefore, if it is difficult to avoid contact completely, it may be wise for you to avoid very close physical contact (e.g. hugs & kisses) with the child and to be especially diligent about hand hygiene for a week or two following their flu nasal spray vaccination.

I have had the flu vaccine, am I still at risk of getting the flu?

Although you have already received the flu jab yourself, there may still be a minimal risk to you depending on how compromised your immune system may be. Most people who have the seasonal flu vaccination will not get seasonal flu. However, the vaccine does not give 100 per cent protection as it won’t stop all viruses. Therefore, you can still get the flu even if you have had the vaccine.

How do I minimise the risk of catching the cold or flu?

Simple things like avoiding or minimising contact with people that have a cold/flu, regularly washing hands, not sharing household items (e.g. cups & towels) with someone who has a cold/flu and not touching your eyes or nose, can all help to reduce the risk of catching the cold or flu. Getting your annual flu vaccine can also help reduce the risk of getting the flu.

For more information about vaccines and infections, you can read the Myeloma UK Infosheets, ‘Infection and myeloma’ and ‘Vaccines and myeloma’ which are available to download from the Myeloma UK website.

As always, if you begin to feel unwell or notice any new symptoms, contact your medical team for advice.

Best Wishes

The Myeloma UK Information Specialist Team