Flu and an Ostomy



By Anne Marie Knudsen, CWON,MN,CNS,CFCN,  UOAA UPDATE 11/12

FACTS about the FLU:

The Flu is caused by a virus spreading from an infected person to the nose and throat of others.

Symptoms usually appear within 2-3 days after being infected and  a person with a fever  is considered contagious for another 3-4 days.  Here in the US the flu season generally run from November to April. Flu symptoms include chills, fever, dry irritated cough, nasal congestion, a sore throat, muscle aches, pain and a headache. For a frail susceptible and elderly person complications can lead to hospitalization related to pneumonia and rarely death can occur.


Who should get the Flu shot? All over 65, women pregnant or breastfeeding, healthcare givers and patients with chronic medical conditions like asthma; immune deficiency; heart disease. It is also recommended that students get the flu shot. It is a myth when people state they got the flu from the flu shot. Why do we need the flu shot every year? For the simple reason that the flu virus keeps changing and the vaccine must be replaced. Flu shots only protect for 1 year. Flu vaccine contains NO LIVE VIRUS which means it is impossible to get the flu from the flu shot. The flu shot is 90% effective against type A & B Influenza; but remember there can be different strands which means if one does get the flu the symptoms will be milder compared to not having gotten the flu shot.


First of all drink plenty of fluids and rest. Take some Ibuprofen or Tylenol for fever and pain. Wash your hand frequently and use Kleenex versus a handkerchief. Keep your hands off your face except for eating and daily hygiene. Rinse the nasal cavities with warm salt water or a steam bath with chamomile since these are soothing and will open the nostrils and bring down the viral population.

Boost the immune system with foods rich in vitamin C. You should take at least 1000 mg daily and supplement Zinc 15-20 mg. to boost the absorption of vitamin C. Finally drink as many many warm liquids as possible as the warm liquid will produce a wash off,  proliferating the virus from the throat to the stomach. Because of the high acidic content of the stomach the virus will not be able to survive.


WHAT to do as an Ostomate with the Flu:

Ostomates must take special care not to take any medication including laxatives without being

prescribed by a doctor as they have no effect on viruses and can change the balance of the gut and cause severe diarrhea.  For the Colostomate the diet needs to change while recovering from the flu. Eat a fiber free diet and then gradually move towards a regular normal diet.


Some drugs and specific foods can cause constipation in colostomates. This can be prevented by

increasing your fluid intake.

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