Old man Winter showed up a little early this year and the flu and virus season is in full swing. We thought it would be a good time to talk shop on the flu.
To vaccinate or not to vaccinate…that is the burning question. Some of us never skip a flu shot, some us…meh…could take it or leave it. Let’s take a look at some flu facts…
- Everyone should get the flu shot. Fact: Not everyone. This is where you should consult with your doctor. People with very compromised immune systems may not be eligible for getting a flu shot but all you healthy folks typically can and should. Remember, not all flu shots are created equally. There are nose sprays, shot in the arm, live vaccines or inactivated vaccines and various strengths. For example, people over 65 can get a high dose Trivalent Flu shot that gives them a stronger immune response. Check with your doctor or pharmacist to make sure you are getting the one best suited for you. Keep in mind, the more healthy people get vaccinated, the more we protect those around us with weaker immune systems who can not get the vaccine.
- The flu vaccine begins protecting us immediately. Fact: It does not. Some people think the vaccine causes the flu. Keep in mind, it takes 2 weeks for our body to develop antibodies to the flu so during that time, you are still susceptible.
- The flu vaccine causes the flu. Fact: No, it doesn’t cause the flu but you still might get the flu even if you get vaccinated. There is roughly a 60% chance you won’t get influenza with the vaccine but it’s impossible to create a vaccine that prevents every type of flu. The vaccine focuses on what the CDC believes will be the top 4 influenza but there more than that. If you are exposed to the flu virus at the same time you get the shot, you won’t be protected and could get the flu. If you get the flu despite getting the vaccine, it could be a shorter illness with fewer complications.
- The flu has serious complications. Fact: Yes, the flu can and has caused death in some patients, especially those with serious health problems and poor immune systems. These instances are rare. Most likely you will experience high fevers, respiratory distress and the virus can sometimes lead to secondary bacterial issues.
- You should wait until later in the season to be vaccinated against the flu. Fact: Don’t wait too long! Remember, it takes 2 weeks for the effectiveness of the flu vaccine to work. It is true if you got the vaccine in August, you likely wouldn’t be protected through the entire flu season but getting the vaccine in January…you might be taking a risk.
- I’m puking, I must have the flu. Fact: NO you don’t. You have a stomach bug. Influenza does not generally upset your stomach. The signs of the flu are fever, aches, chills, and it all comes on suddenly. If you have a sore throat…it probably isn’t influenza but a common cold. Sore throats aren’t even part of the initial presentation of the flu but remember, if your defenses are down, it’s not impossible to think you are fighting more than just the flu.
Here is the most important tip for handling the flu. Don’t get it in the first place! It sounds dumb to read that out loud but prevention is the best medicine.
- Avoid sick people, whether they have the flu or a common cold or leprosy. Avoid them!
- Avoid spreading your germs. If you get sick with the flu, a common cold or leprosy use your head and keep it to yourself! Don’t go to work, or cough your way through the aisles of Walmart. Stay home and isolated. No one enjoys being sick and some can even end up for a lengthy and expensive hospital stay because you tried to be a martyr. Don’t do it.
- If you do have to leave your bed for any reason and wander around public areas, wear a mask. It’s the right thing to do.
- Do not cough into your hands. If you must cough and spread your crud around the air we all breathe, at least cough into the crook of your elbow, the ground, a sterile mask…anywhere but your hands or out in the open. A tissue isn’t fool proof but it helps if you insist on being a fool when you’re sick.
- Wash your hands frequently. If you have OCD about hand washing, this is your season! You will be one of the few healthy people. We could all learn a thing or two about the importance of hand washing.
- Avoid touching your face, your eyes or picking your nose. This is one guaranteed way to pick up any nasty disease including leprosy…and the flu.
Well, that is the flu in a nut shell. So, it’s that time of year. Hop in to the clinic and get your flu shot…what are you waiting for? The flu? Oh, if you want more fun facts about Influenza, visit the CDC website for up to date facts and fun!