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Ask Dr. John: Influenza, marijuana allergy

10:05 AM, Jan 8, 2014   |    comments
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KUSA - Dr. John Torres from Premier Urgent Care answers your questions every week. If you have a medical question for Dr. John, send it to and make sure to have Ask Dr. John in the subject line.

Question #1
We hear reports of hospitalizations for influenza. What I'd like to also hear is how many of those hospitalized did or did not receive the vaccine. Do you know why this info isn't given or why the question may not be asked? I guess if people hear too many of those hospitalized did receive the vaccine and still went on to get influenza then it could cut down on the number of people that would even think about getting the vaccine. "Why bother if I'm going to get the flu any way"? What are your thoughts? Carol

This is turning into a pretty bad flu year and the H1N1 strain is causing the majority of cases. As opposed to other flu strains in the past this one tends to hit the young and healthy pretty hard. Right now cases and hospitalizations are up in Colorado and the CDC has bumped our state up the "widespread" category, the highest category they have. It takes a while to track how many with the flu were hospitalized and even more to find out how many had the vaccine and it turns out to be a lot more difficult to do this than most of us suspect. This is something that needs to be gleaned from the medical chart and can be a painstaking process. That's why you don't see this data readily available. This year's vaccine did include the H1N1 strain so is protecting against it. I've seen a lot of patients that were vaccinated and still got the flu but those with the vaccine have much milder cases and tend to be able to stay out of the hospital. According to the CDC, last year alone the vaccine kept 80,000 out of the hospital and prevented over 6 million cases of the flu. So even though someone with the vaccine might get the flu the shot will help keep the symptoms down and will most importantly keep people out of the hospital. I talked with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and they are currently applying for a grant to allow them to track just what this viewer is asking about.

Question #2
With marijuana being legal and in some counties people are allowed to smoke outside, I am concerned about being exposed to the drug. I am allergic to marijuana and for people like me, and for children, an unintentional exposure could be very dangerous to our health. Is there anything one can take if exposed to the drug when one is allergic to the drug? Carol

It is definitely possible to be allergic to marijuana smoke and if you're near someone smoking marijuana that could certainly make your symptoms flare up. This type of allergy though is much like what a lot of us suffer in the fall when weed pollen starts floating around. Marijuana is a weed so its smoke could affect you much like the normal weed pollen in the air does. And that means using similar techniques to combat this type of allergies. Avoidance is your best bet. But if that isn't completely possible than using over the counter allergy medicines should also help keep symptoms under control. And if exposed, showering before going to be can get that smoke out of your hair and keep it off of your pillow.


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