Get vaccinated to protect from early start to flu season

Doctor typing on computer

Hello, dear readers, and welcome to our monthly letters column. We'll begin with the news that lab-confirmed cases of influenza have been reported throughout the United States, which means our flu season is having another early start. Please make time to get your flu shot. This year, it's a quadrivalent vaccine that offers protection from two strains each of influenza A and influenza B.

Many of you have asked if the updated COVID-19 vaccine, which is tailored to the newest variants, can be administered at the same time as the flu shot. The answer is yes, you can get both shots at the same time. For those who do get sick with either the flu or COVID-19, being vaccinated decreases the severity of symptoms. And now, onward to your letters.

-- A reader who drinks bottled water asked about advice she recently received. "I have been drinking spring water from the store for many years because the water from my tap tastes bad," she wrote. "But someone told me spring water lacks minerals and I should stop. Is this true?" Both tap water and bottled water contain minerals. However, tests show that the mineral profiles of each vary, depending on the source. Unless you're drinking distilled water, from which all organic materials have been removed, you are getting minerals in your drinking water. But don't forget diet is also an important source of minerals. This includes foods like vegetables, leafy greens, fruit, seafood, shellfish, grains and dairy products. Eat a varied and balanced diet to be sure you get the minerals -- and vitamins -- your body needs.

-- A column about hyperhidrosis prompted a question from a reader. "I was diagnosed with hyperhidrosis and told to use a specific antiperspirant," they wrote. "It worked for a while, but then stopped. What else can I do?" With antiperspirants, it's important to apply them to completely dry skin. Existing moisture forms a barrier and limits the degree to which the ingredients can sink in. Try using a blow dryer prior to application to get the area as dry as possible. And, as we mentioned in the column, the FDA-approved use of Botox for hyperhidrosis has proven quite effective. Your doctor can prescribe this treatment.

-- We recently wrote about bats and rabies and are now hearing about a lot of close encounters. "Everything I read about bats says close contact should be considered possible exposure. Does this apply only if the bat physically touches you?" a reader asked. "I was down at the lake tonight in Montana and a bat flew by, maybe 5 feet away. Should I be concerned?" Just being near flying bats, while unsettling, does not put you at risk of rabies. That requires direct physical contact that results in a bite or a scratch. Rabies can spread from even minor scratches or bites, including those small enough to go unrecognized. But that requires direct physical contact. A bat that flies by can't give you rabies.

Thank you, as always, for writing. You've been generous with your correspondence, and we will be back soon with a bonus letters column.

(Send your questions to [email protected], or write: Ask the Doctors, c/o UCLA Health Sciences Media Relations, 10960 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 1955, Los Angeles, CA, 90024. Owing to the volume of mail, personal replies cannot be provided.)

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