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How Can You Prevent Colds or Flu When Taking Immunosuppressive Drugs?

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Updated January 11, 2013

Question: How Can You Prevent Colds or Flu When Taking Immunosuppressive Drugs?
Arthritis patients taking immunosuppressive drugs, such as DMARDs, TNF blockers, or corticosteroids, often ask how they can boost their immune system so they aren't as susceptible to colds, flu, or infection. What should people taking immunosuppressive drugs do?
Answer:

It's funny you mention infection. I just returned from a meeting and next to me in coach was a nice guy who unfortunately coughed the whole trip. I thought about my immunosuppressed patients and wondered what they might do to protect themselves. So, in answer to your question - the key is prevention.

  • If you are traveling in public transportation such as a bus, train or plane consider purchasing an N95 face mask in case you are next to a cougher (masks that were recommended when SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) was prevalent).
  • Finally, good hand washing is essential - especially if you wipe your nose as many infections gain entry to the body this way.

Dr. Zashin is clinical assistant professor at University of Texas Southwestern Medical School and an attending physician at Presbyterian Hospitals of Dallas and Plano. Dr. Zashin is author of Arthritis Without Pain - The Miracle Of TNF Blockers. The book is useful for anyone on one of the biologic drugs or considering the biologic drugs.

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