Q: Should I get a flu shot this year?
Chrissy Miller, Employee Health and COVID-19 Vaccine Clinic Manager, Maui Health: Yes. It’s always a good idea to protect yourself against the flu, and that’s especially true while we are still in the COVID-19 pandemic.
First, it’s good to remember that influenza is also a serious, contagious disease. Long before we heard of COVID, some people were hospitalized each year with severe illness from the flu. Influenza is especially dangerous for people with weakened immune systems, including older people and babies, some of whom are too young to get vaccinated. So by getting a flu shot, you can help protect yourself and your loved ones from a nasty illness and potential complications.
You’re also doing your part to help reduce the potential burden on hospitals and health care providers during the pandemic. Remember that symptoms of the flu can appear similar to COVID, including fever, chills, aches and cough. So even if you’d normally just rest and recover from a bout with the flu at home, you might be more likely to seek medical care this year if you think you may have COVID-19.
The flu shot is safe, and studies have shown it’s OK to get it at the same time as your COVID vaccine. So don’t hesitate to protect yourself and your loved ones from the flu this year.
At this time Maui Health does not offer flu shots to the general public but they are widely available at doctors’ offices and most pharmacies across the island. Stay safe and happy holidays!
Q: What can I do to get relief from seasonal allergies, or this terrible vog right now?
Chrissy Miller, Employee Health and COVID-19 Vaccine Clinic Manager, Maui Health: Seasonal allergies are also known as hay fever or allergic rhinitis, and we do get them here in Hawaii even though plants flower year-round. Seasonal allergies occur when pollen or other particles trigger your immune system and cause an allergic reaction like sneezing, itchy eyes, runny nose and congestion. For some people, blooming mango or avocado trees might be a trigger. Other common allergens in Hawaii include dust mites, mold and cockroach droppings, or conditions like vog.
There are things you can do to get relief. First, identify what’s triggering your allergies and try to reduce your exposure. This could include spending time away from the area or closing your doors and windows, and running your air conditioner when trees are blooming. If the problem is inside the house, like dust mites, then clean bedding, wipe down surfaces and vacuum the room to keep them under control. Consider using a portable HEPA air filter in your bedroom.
There are many over-the-counter medicines that can help reduce symptoms of seasonal allergies, including antihistamines and decongestants. Many people also find relief in rinsing their sinuses with sterile water using a tool like a neti pot. There is some evidence that acupuncture can reduce seasonal allergy symptoms.
Finally, if home remedies are not giving you enough relief, seek medical help. Your doctor can give you skin or blood tests to identify your allergy triggers and recommend the best treatment. Depending on what is causing your allergies, allergy shots may provide a long-term solution. Also called immunotherapy, allergy shots work by exposing your immune system to small doses of the allergen, so you gradually build up a tolerance.
No matter what is causing your allergies, you don’t have to suffer in silence. By identifying the problem and getting treatment, you can find relief.
* Physicians, providers and administrative staff who practice at Maui Health System hospitals and clinics answer questions from the public in “Healthwise Maui,” which appears on Thursdays. Maui Health System operates Maui Memorial Medical Center, Maui Memorial Medical Center Outpatient Clinic, Kula Hospital & Clinic and Lana’i Community Hospital and accepts all patients. To submit a question, go to the website at mauihealth.org/healthwise.