It is that time of year – sniffles, colds, coughs and THE FLU!
“I don’t get sick, the flu shot doesn’t work, I don’t want to get sick from the shot” – we have heard all the excuses, yet our job is to educate and empower our patients to take control of their health and make the right choices for themselves. Let’s look at some common questions we get.
What is the flu?
The flu is caused by a respiratory illness caused by flu virus strains. It disproportionately affects children, seniors and those with medical conditions, though it can affect young, healthy individuals as well. The flu can cause a range of symptoms from fever, cough, sore throat, muscle/body aches, fatigue, and can be mild to severe and sometimes life threatening. It differs from a cold, as the virus is different, the onset is more sudden, often more debilitating and can result in complications such as pneumonia, sinus and ear infections. The flu can aggravate chronic medical conditions such as asthma or heart disease.
Who is susceptible to getting the flu?
Everyone is susceptible to getting the flu, though the very young (younger than 5 specifically younger than 2) and older than 65; those individuals with chronic medical conditions (asthma, heart disease, diabetes, etc); and pregnant women, are the most vulnerable to getting flu related complications.
What can I do to protect myself, and my family from getting the flu?
Frequent handwashing, refrain from visiting people who are ill and getting the annual flu shot are the best preventative strategies.
The flu shot is only partially effective, why should I get it?
According to the CDC, the flu vaccine can reduce the severity of symptoms and limit life threatening complications. The CDC recommends that anyone over the age of 6 months be vaccinated against the flu.
What are the risk or side effects to getting the flu shot?
Most people are concerned about getting the flu from the flu shot. This is not the case as the injected vaccine it is not a live virus. It takes up to 2 weeks for full immunization to take place, so if you do get the flu in those 2 weeks, it was already in your system. Therefore, getting the shot early in the season is key.
In terms of side effects, mild soreness at the injection site, headache, slight fever, nausea are common and are all signs that your immune system is mounting an appropriate response.
Severe reactions or allergies to the flu shot are extremely rare. This is why you are monitored at the pharmacy for 15 minutes following injection to ensure no reaction.
How do I protect my children from the flu?
Children over the age of 5 are able to be immunized at the pharmacy and require two doses 4 weeks apart if they haven’t had the flu shot previously. If they have had flu shots in previous years they require a single dose similar to an adult. Children under the age of 5, they need to be immunized at the physician’s office.