Flu season is approaching. You can protect yourself and your family from the flu by getting a flu vaccine. It’s the first and most important step.
Influenza (flu) is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses, and it can cause mild to severe illness. Each year millions of people are sickened, hundreds of thousands are hospitalized, and thousands to tens of thousands of people die from flu.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that everyone 6 months and older get a flu vaccine every year. The vaccine has a number of important benefits. Not only can it reduce illness, it also can reduce doctor’s visits and missed work and school. Importantly, flu vaccine has also been shown to reduce the risk of flu hospitalization.
Flu shots are approved and recommended for everyone, including pregnant women and people with chronic health conditions. However, only some flu shot brands are approved for use in children as young as 6 months of age. There also are high-dose and adjuvanted flu shots designed specifically for people 65 years and older.
This season, the CDC recommends use of the inactivated influenza vaccine and the recombinant influenza vaccine, both of which are injectable seasonal vaccines. Both trivalent (three-component) and quadrivalent (four-component) vaccines are available for the 2016-17 flu season. The nasal spray flu vaccine, sold as FluMist, should not be used this flu season.
“There is no preference for one injectable vaccine over another,” said Dr. Lisa Grohskopf, a medical officer with the CDC’s influenza division. “The most important thing is that people get a flu shot this season.”
Talk to your doctor or nurse if you have any questions about which flu vaccine is best for you, and visit the CDC’s “What You Should Know for the 2016-2017 Influenza Season” webpage.
Because flu can cause serious illness, understanding how it spreads and how to prevent it is an important step in keeping yourself and loved ones protected.
Flu spreads from person to person, and experts believe it’s mainly spread by droplets made when people with flu cough, sneeze or talk. Although it’s less common, flu also can be spread by touching a surface or object that has flu virus on it and then touching your nose or mouth.
In addition to getting a yearly flu vaccine, people should take everyday preventive actions to stop the spread of germs.
Avoid close contact with sick people, cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, and wash your hands often with soap and water. The CDC website has additional actions to take to fight the flu.
The flu usually comes on suddenly, and symptoms may include a fever or feeling feverish/chills, cough and sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headaches, fatigue, and some people may even have vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in children than adults. Most people who get sick from flu will get better in several days to less than two weeks, but some people can develop complications, like pneumonia, as a result of the flu.
If you get the flu, antiviral drugs can be used to treat your illness. Visit the CDC website for more information on what to do if you get sick.
Getting vaccinated is particularly important for people who are at high risk of serious complications from flu.
“We know some people are more likely to get seriously ill if they are infected with flu, including pregnant women, young children, older people and people with certain chronic health conditions,” Grohskopf said.
“We want those people to get vaccinated, but we also want the people around them to get vaccinated to help protect those who are more vulnerable.
So your flu vaccine doesn’t just protect you, it also protects your infant child or grandchild or your mother or grandmother, for example.”
Flu vaccines are offered in many locations, including doctor’s offices, clinics, health departments, pharmacies and college health centers. They also are offered by many employers, and are even available in some schools.
For more information about flu and the benefits of the flu vaccine, talk to your doctor or other health care professional, visit the CDC flu website at cdc.gov/flu, or call 1-800-232-4636.
To Your Health is provided by the staff of Boulder City Hospital. For more information, call 702-293-4111, ext. 576, or visit bouldercityhospital.org.