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Don’t ‘blow’ off flu season

Posted on Monday, October 8, 2012 at 1:34 pm

It’s that time of year to start thinking about flu shots.  Influenza is a serious disease that can lead to illness, hospitalization and sometimes, even death.  A yearly flu shot is the first and most important step to protecting against flu viruses.

Flu viruses are contagious and people can spread the flu to others up to about six feet away through coughing, sneezing and talking.  The flu can also be contracted from touching an infected surface and placing your hands on your nose, eyes and mouth.

It is important to vaccinate high-risk person’s to decrease their risk of severe flu illness such as young children, pregnant women, people with chronic health conditions such as asthma, diabetes or heart and lung disease and people 65 years and older.

People can infect others one day before symptoms develop and up to five to seven days after becoming sick.  Children can pass the infection for longer than seven days.  Symptoms of the flu start one to four days after the virus enters the body.

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), seasonal flu season can begin as early as October and last as late as May. Typically, peak flu activity is in January or later.

The flu vaccine takes about two weeks after vaccination for antibodies to develop in the body and provide protection.  That means people are still at risk for getting the flu.  That is why CDC suggests it is better to get vaccinated early in the fall, before flu season really gets under way.

Flu-like symptoms include fever, chills, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headaches, fatigue, vomiting and diarrhea which is found most common in children.

If you are sick with flu-like illness, CDC recommends you stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone and limit your contact with others to keep from infecting them.

Washing your hands often with soap and water can help prevent spreading germs or use an alcohol-based hand rub.

Covering your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze can also help alleviate spreading germs and make sure to throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.

There are two different types of flu vaccines available.  The flu shot, which is most commonly used, is typically given with a needle in the arm.  There are three types of flu shots that can be administered.  The regular flu vaccine is approved for people six months and older.  The high dose flu vaccine is approved for people 65 or older, while the intradermal flu vaccine, which was first used last year and is administered into the skin, is approved for people 18 to 64.

Side effects are known to occur after obtaining your flu vaccine.  Some side effects that could occur are soreness, redness or swelling where the shot was given, low-grade fever, and aches.  These symptoms usually occur soon after the shot and last only one to two days.

The second type of flu vaccine is the nasal spray, which is approved for use in healthy people ages two to 49 that are not pregnant.

Side effects in children may be runny nose, wheezing, headache, vomiting, muscle aches or fever.  In adults, symptoms could be runny nose, headache, sore throat or cough.

Flu shots and information can be obtained from your local pharmacy stores, health clinics or your personal physician office.