The flu. If you’ve ever had it, you know there are few things that can make you feel so miserable. Body aches. Fever. Chills. Exhaustion. All of these symptoms appear when you get the flu, and they don’t go away quickly – many people can be in bed for a week or two with the flu. And for some, the flu can lead to even more serious problems, such as pneumonia and in especially severe cases, death.
A look at flu statistics from last year demonstrates how prevalent and serious the flu can be. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that between October 1, 2018 – May 4, 2019, there were:
- 4 million – 42.9 million flu cases
- 531,000 – 647,000 hospitalizations due to flu
- 36,400 – 61,200 deaths due to the flu
These numbers demonstrate that flu can be widespread and for some, very dangerous. The good news is that you can dramatically reduce your chances of getting the flu with one simple step: getting an annual flu vaccine. It’s fast, easy and cheap – and it could well save you from experiencing a serious illness this fall and winter.
Flu season runs from October to May and typically peaks December through February. Privia Medical Group North Texas physicians recommend everyone get a flu shot in September, because it takes a couple of weeks for the vaccine to be completely effective. A September vaccine provides the best protection by the time flu season arrives in October.
“Getting a flu shot each year is one of the best things you can do for your health,” says Dr. Lynne Tilkin, a primary care physician. “Many of our Privia Medical Group North Texas primary care physicians and pediatricians have flu shots available in their offices and vaccines are also readily available at most pharmacies.”
The CDC, the American Academy of Pediatrics and Privia Medical Group North Texas recommend that everyone age 6 months or older receive an annual flu vaccine. While everyone should get a flu vaccine, it is especially critical that people who are at high risk for getting the flu and/or at high risk for serious flu-related complications do so, including:
- Children younger than 5 years
- Adults age 65 and older
- Women who are pregnant
- People who live in nursing homes or long-term care facilities
- Health care workers
In addition, people with certain health conditions are especially at risk, including those with asthma, heart disease, kidney or liver disorders, a compromised immune system and those who are morbidly obese. People with these conditions are more susceptible to flu-related complications, including pneumonia, bronchitis and sinus infections. In addition, the flu can worsen pre-existing conditions, triggering hospitalization.
Additionally, since infants younger than 6 months are too young to receive the flu vaccine, it is imperative that anyone who will be around an infant be vaccinated.
Is the Flu Vaccine Really Effective?
Yes. While it is not a 100% guarantee that you will not get the flu, the flu vaccine lowers your chances of doing so.
In addition, people who receive a vaccination and do get the flu experience less severe symptoms and a shorter duration of the illness compared to people who do not receive the vaccine. The effectiveness of the vaccine varies from year to year. There are several strands of the flu and the vaccine includes the viruses scientists believe are most likely to be prevalent in the upcoming flu season.
In addition to getting a flu vaccine, you should always take other precautions, such as washing your hands frequently with soap and water. Always cover your mouth when you sneeze or cough to prevent the spread of germs.
But Can the Vaccine Cause the Flu?
No. It’s a myth that the flu vaccine can give you the flu. The vaccine does not contain an active virus, so it is not possible for it to cause the flu.
What If I Get the Flu?
If you begin to experience flu-like symptoms, such as a high fever (100 degrees Fahrenheit or higher), body aches and chills, headache, fatigue, nasal congestion and sore throat, see your doctor right away. Your physician can test for the flu and if you have it, prescribe antiviral medication that may help you recover more quickly. These medications can help lessen and shorten the symptoms, but they generally work best within 48 hours of the onset of the flu, so it’s important to see the doctor quickly if you suspect you have the flu.
“In addition to antivirals, the best thing you can do is get plenty of bed rest and drink lots of fluids,” says Dr. Joseph Saucedo, a primary care physician. “Resting your body completely gives it the best chance to fight the flu virus and get better. Plus, if you have the flu, you are highly contagious – so it’s important you stay at home!”
Keep in mind that the best way to greatly decrease the odds of a miserable week or two in bed is to get your flu shot. The sooner you get vaccinated, the better – but as long as flu season is underway, it’s never too late!
This article contains information sourced from: