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Flu season is here, be prepared this year

GLENN ELLIS | 11/13/2016, 10:20 p.m. | Updated on 11/18/2016, 3:41 p.m.
Our flu season is around the corner. And while the timing varies in different parts of the country, most flu ...
Patients receiving a flu shot

Strategies for Well-Being

Our flu season is around the corner. And while the timing varies in different parts of the country, most flu activity – influenza-like illness, hospitalizations and sadly even deaths – will occur between October 2016 and run into May 2017.

We all get information or reminders to get a flu shot. But most of us are either suspicious or just downright don’t think it’s that big a deal.

I’m not going to attempt to convince you one way or the other, I just want to make sure that whatever decision you make is an informed decision. So here’s a little information that may prove helpful.

First of all, let’s begin with what is the flu?

The flu is a highly contagious illness caused by influenza viruses. Similar to the common cold, the flu affects the respiratory system – nose, throat, and lungs – and can cause a runny nose, cough and sore throat. But unlike the common cold, the flu also attacks the entire body – a fever of 100 degrees Fahrenheit or higher, headaches, cough, body aches, chills, fatigue, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea (more common in children). The flu is a serious disease and can lead to complications, hospitalization and even death.

The influenza virus is most commonly spread via aerosolized droplets that can travel up to 6 feet. It is important to stay away from people who are coughing and sneezing. The virus can also survive on surfaces or objects and infect a person if they touch their mouth or nose.

Most people who get the flu improve within a week (though they may have a lingering cough and get tired easily long after a week passes); however, the flu can cause serious complications.

If you’re young and healthy, influenza usually isn’t serious. Although you may feel miserable while you have it, the flu usually goes away with no lasting effects.

You can have flu complications if you get a bacterial infection, which can cause pneumonia in your weakened lungs. The flu virus itself also can cause pneumonia. Flu complications, such as pneumonia, usually appear after the patient starts to feel better.

Pneumonia can be a very serious and sometimes life-threatening condition. If you have any of these symptoms, you should contact your health care provider immediately to get the appropriate treatment.

Pneumonia is the major serious complication of influenza and can be very serious. It can develop about five days after viral influenza. More than 90 percent of the deaths caused by influenza and pneumonia occur among older adults.

Now, when it comes to the flu shot, it is an inactivated vaccine (containing killed virus) that is given with a needle, usually in the arm. Because the viruses are inactive, they cannot cause infections. The vaccine preparation is based on the strains of the flu viruses that are in circulation at the time and includes A and B viruses expected to circulate the following winter. Viruses for the flu shot are grown in eggs. The flu shot is approved for use in persons older than 6 months, including healthy persons and those with chronic medical conditions.