With flu season upon us, it’s important to remember that a flu shot is the best way to prevent the ailment.
More than 3 million cases of the flu are treated each year in the United States. Thousands of people die from the flu each year, and many more are hospitalized by this potentially life-threatening illness, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
About the Flu
The flu is an extremely contagious viral infection that typically spreads between October and May. The virus can be easily transferred through coughing, sneezing, skin-to-skin contact, saliva or contact with a contaminated surface. The infection attacks the lungs, nose and throat, commonly causing patients to suddenly experience fever and chills, muscle aches, fatigue, headaches, sore throat, coughing and sinus problems.
No one is immune from the flu, and some people have a higher risk of dangerous flu-related complications. Young children, the elderly, pregnant women, those with chronic diseases and those who have weak immune systems are at a greater risk of catching the flu and developing serious complications. The flu virus can also worsen pre-existing medical conditions like heart disease, cancer and diabetes.
Flu viruses change from year-to-year, with new vaccine formulas needed to combat the virus. The flu vaccine is made before each flu season each year to protect against the viruses that are most likely to cause sickness in the upcoming flu season.
The CDC recommends that children 6 months to 8 years of age get two vaccines during each flu season. Those who are not at a greater risk need one vaccine per flu season. Tell your health care provider if you have ever had an allergic or adverse reaction after a flu shot. Those with minor flu symptoms can also be vaccinated, but it’s recommended that those who are severely ill wait until they recover.
There is a great deal of misinformation about the flu vaccine that has been shared by non-medical sources. The influenza vaccine does not cause the flu. If you have any concerns, talk with your health care provider before deciding whether or not to get the vaccine.
The flu vaccine helps protect you, your loved ones and others around you from catching the flu virus. Don’t let the flu get you down this year – schedule an appointment to get your flu shot.
Debra Danzinger, APRN
Debra Danzinger, APRN, is with CHI Saint Joseph Medical Group– Primary Care in New Haven, Kentucky.