Time to Get Your Flu Vaccine!
With the winter season upon us, you will be spending more time indoors and inside social functions. Unfortunately, the flu season is here and now is the time to proactively address your health for the coming months.
As illness strikes more during the colder months, there is one thing nobody wants to encounter this year – the FLU!
The flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by the influenza viruses. The two main types, Type A and B, routinely spread in people and are responsible for the season flu epidemics each year. The flu can cause mild to severe symptoms, including fever, chills, cough, sore throat, congestion or runny nose, body aches, headache, exhaustion, and less commonly vomiting and diarrhea.
Though the flu can render anyone homebound for a few days or more, the elderly, very young, and immune compromised are at greater risk of serious complications from influenza.
The best way to prevent the flu is by getting vaccinated each year. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends everyone six months or older receive the flu vaccine by the end of October. Flu vaccinations are administered by injection.
How the Flu Spreads
The flu virus spreads when tiny droplets produced by coughing, sneezing, or talking are transmitted from an infected person to another. Secondary transmissions may also occur when someone touches an object or surface contaminated by someone carrying the virus. The flu virus can live on inanimate objects for up to 24 hours.
Benefits of Vaccinating
While keeping you from getting sick with the flu is the primary goal of the flu vaccine, it is thought that being vaccinated may decrease flu symptoms and complications if you are infected. This occurs because your body is better prepared to mount an immune response to the virus after being vaccinated. Getting vaccinated also contributes to creating herd immunity in your community, the concept that if enough people are immune to a transmittable disease the entire community is protected.
Although being vaccinated against the flu offers increased protection over not vaccinating, it is not completely without risk. It takes two weeks to build antibodies in your system to protect you from the flu. You may still catch the flu during this period of time or if the flu strains selected for the annual vaccine aren’t a good match with the strains circulating in your community.
Allergic reactions to the flu vaccine are rare, but possible. Symptoms of an allergic reaction tend to appear shortly after being vaccinated and may include difficulty breathing, increased heartbeat, skin rash or hives, feeling lightheaded, and experiencing swelling around the eyes and mouth. Seeking medical care immediately after the onset of these symptoms may be appropriate. In rare cases the influenza virus or vaccine can trigger Guillain-Barre syndrome, a condition where your immune system begins to attack your nervous system. While the incidence of this occurring is rare, it is important to speak to your doctor before being vaccinated if you have a history of this condition.
Other Ways to Stay Healthy
The flu vaccine can help keep you healthy this flu season but is not a replacement for a healthy immune system. Combining the flu vaccine with a healthy lifestyle enhances the level of protection you can expect from all common illnesses this winter.
Some ways to help you stay healthy this winter include:
- Exercising moderately for 30 minutes a day as recommended by the CDC.
- Eating a healthy diet that includes fruits and vegetables to provide adequate levels of essential vitamins and minerals.
- Sleeping for a minimum of seven hours a night to allow your body to repair and recharge.
- Supplemental vitamins such as a multivitamin or Vitamin C or Vitamin D may be appropriate to support immune function. It is important to check with your doctor before starting any new supplements.
- Regular hand washing and covering your nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing can help reduce the likelihood of spreading the flu.
Take Action Today
Getting ahead of the flu is an important part of enjoying the winter and holiday seasons alongside friends and family instead of in bed. It’s a great time to talk to your doctor or schedule your flu vaccine to protect yourself and your family this winter.