‘Tis the season of sniffles and sneezes – and, unfortunately – the dreaded flu.
It’s time to get a flu shot to protect you and loved ones from the seasonal misery. Some people scoff at flu shots as useless, but in fact they are not. Yes, it’s true they cannot protect a person totally, but the shot can be very protective.
It’s recommended people six months old and older get the flu shot. It’s especially recommended for people over 65, who are especially susceptible to the ravages of the flu, sometimes resulting in death. Flu shots are also highly recommended for young children and pregnant women. Children between six months and 8 years may need two doses of the vaccine so be sure to check with a doctor.
According to the Mayo Clinic, this year’s flu shot will offer protection against the H1N1 flu virus, in addition to two other flu viruses that are expected to be circulating this season.
Also available is a vaccine that protects against four strains of the virus, as well as a high-dose flu vaccine for adults 65 and older.
It takes two weeks after a flu shot to develop immunity so the best time to get it is in October, although a shot can be helpful even after the flu season starts.
For those who are squeamish about needles, there is also a flu vaccine that can be administered nasally, via a spray. Again, check with your clinic staff or a doctor.
A commonly asked question is this: Can the vaccine actually give me the flu? No, it can’t. However, some people do experience muscle aches and fever for a day or two after receiving a flu shot. That is likely a side effect of the body’s production of protective antibodies, according to the Mayo Clinic. In some cases, people may have already “caught” the flu virus before getting the shot or during the two-week period before the vaccine takes effect.
Research indicates flu shots are 71 percent effective in reducing flu-related hospitalizations among adults of all ages and 77 percent effective among adults 50 or older. The flu shot may reduce a child’s risk by 74 percent. Now, those good odds can’t be argued away.
For those who just won’t get a flu shot (and even those who do), there are other good ways to avoid getting the flu and other contagious ailments: wash hands thoroughly and frequently with hot water and soap during the day; use an alcohol-based sanitizer when soap and water aren’t available; avoid touching eyes, nose or mouth whenever possible; avoid crowds when the flu is prevalent in your area; and get lots of sleep, exercise, drink plenty of fluids, eat nutritious meals and lower your stress levels.
We hope people heed the good advice from the Mayo Clinic and have a happy, flu-free season.