September Health Tip: Flu Prevention
It’s the time of year when many people debate whether or not they should get a flu shot. If you are unsure if the flu shot is right for you, this information my help you decide.
Unlike a typical cold, the flu tends to come on suddenly, and the symptoms are much worse than just a runny nose, sneezing and sore throat. And although a cold can be a nuisance, you usually feel much worse with the flu.
Common signs and symptoms of the flu include:
- Fever over 100.4 F
- Aching muscles, especially in your back, arms and legs
- Chills and sweats
- Dry, persistent cough
- Fatigue and weakness
- Nasal congestion
- Sore throat
Most people who get the flu can treat themselves at home and often don’t need to see a doctor.
However, If you have flu symptoms and are at risk of complications, see your doctor right away. Taking antiviral drugs within the first 48 hours after you first notice symptoms may reduce the length of your illness and help prevent more-serious problems.
What causes the flu?
The flu is contagious—that means it spreads from person to person, often through the air. You can spread the infection before you feel sick and you are contagious for several days after you get sick. Children and people with weakened immune systems may be contagious for a slightly longer time. You can catch the flu when someone near you coughs or sneezes. Or, if you touch something the virus is on, like a phone, keyboard, or doorknob, and then touch your nose or mouth, you could catch the flu. The flu virus can live on a surface like a book or doorknob for a number of hours. Remember to wash your hands often when you are around someone who is sick. Make a point of washing them before eating or touching your eyes, nose, or mouth. If you can, stay away from sick people. That will help stop the flu from spreading.
Influenza viruses are constantly changing, with new strains appearing regularly. If you’ve had influenza in the past, your body has already made antibodies to fight that particular strain of the virus. If future influenza viruses are similar to those you’ve encountered before, either by having the disease or by vaccination, those antibodies may prevent infection or lessen its severity.
But antibodies against flu viruses you’ve encountered in the past can’t protect you from new influenza subtypes that can be very different immunologically from what you had before.
What makes someone more at risk for the flu?
Factors that may increase your risk of developing influenza or its complications include:
- Age. Seasonal influenza tends to target young children and older adults.
- Living conditions. People who live in facilities along with many other residents, such as nursing homes, college dorms, or military barracks, are more likely to develop influenza.
- Weakened immune system. Cancer treatments, anti-rejection drugs, corticosteroids and HIV/AIDS can weaken your immune system. This can make it easier for you to catch influenza and may also increase your risk of developing complications.
- Chronic illnesses. Chronic conditions, such as asthma, diabetes or heart problems, may increase your risk of influenza complications.
- Pregnancy. Pregnant women are more likely to develop influenza complications, particularly in the second and third trimesters. Women who are two weeks postpartum are also more likely to develop influenza-related complications.
- Obesity. People with a BMI of 40 or more have an increased risk of complications from the flu.
If you’re young and healthy, seasonal influenza usually isn’t serious. Although you may feel miserable while you have it, the flu usually goes away in a week or two with no lasting effects. But high-risk children and adults may develop complications such as:
- Asthma flare-ups
- Heart problems
- Ear infections
Pneumonia is the most serious complication. For older adults and people with a chronic illness, pneumonia can be deadly.
Getting a flu vaccine shot every year can help you stay healthy and keep you from getting the flu. Medicare will pay for the shot, and so will many private health insurance plans. You can get a flu shot at your doctor’s office or one of our pharmacies. A flu shot won’t keep everyone healthy. But, getting the flu shot every year can mean that if you do get the flu, you might have only a mild case.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that people age 50 and older should get a flu shot every year. Anyone who lives with or takes care of people age 50 and older should also have a flu shot every year.
It takes at least 2 weeks for your shot to start working, so try to get your flu shot as early as September or October through early November for the best chance at prevention. Most people have no problem with a flu shot. In fact, for most people, the flu is far more dangerous than the flu shot.
When you get the flu shot, your arm might be sore, red, or a bit swollen. These side effects may start shortly after getting the shot and can last up to 2 days. They should not get in the way of your daily activities. A few people do have a headache or a low-grade fever for about a day after they get the shot. The flu shot cannot cause you to get the flu.
If you are allergic to eggs, you should not get the flu shot. Because eggs are used to make the flu vaccine, people who are allergic to eggs could have a serious reaction to the shot.
Stop by our stores in Rocky Point and Hampstead during our normal business hours Monday – Saturday to get your flu shot. No appointment is necessary. Rather than risk it, get your flu shot today!