The bad news is that flu season is here. The good news is that you can take steps to avoid it. This year, influenza is rapidly sweeping the nation. The single best way to protect against the flu is to get vaccinated each year. I recently got my first flu shot, and it was a small price to pay for being able to stay healthy this season.

Influenza is a viral infection in your body that is characterized by a number of symptoms. We often use the word “flu” to describe any type of mild illness, such as a stuffy nose or scratchy throat, but the real flu is a little more intense than that. Two different viruses cause the flu; these are known as viruses A and B. The different strains of the flu virus vary each year.

What are the symptoms?

Influenza has many different symptoms. You’ll probably experience the symptoms intensely for the first three to four days, but the flu can last weeks.

Symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Body aches
  • Headaches
  • Dry cough
  • Sore Throat
  • Loss of appetite
  • Drowsiness

How does the flu vaccine work?

The flu shot causes antibodies to develop in the body two weeks after vaccination. These antibodies work against infection. In other words, the vaccine fools the body into believing that it already had the flu. So, when your body comes into contact with influenza viruses, your immune system is able to fight them off.

There are two types of flu vaccines available: the flu shot and the nasal-spray. The flu shot is given with a needle, usually in the arm, and the nasal-spray is sprayed in the nose. There are a few side effects, but none of them are anything to be worried about. The shot pinches a little when injected, and some people do experience an ache in their arm or a low fever. The nasal-spray can cause a runny nose or a scratchy throat, but nothing more. Most importantly, you cannot get the flu from the vaccine.

Who should get vaccinated?

Everyone who is six months of age and above should get the flu shot this season; however, it is especially important for certain groups of people to get vaccinated, such as:

  • People who have asthma, diabetes, or chronic lung disease
  • Pregnant women
  • People 65 years and older
  • People who have a high risk of developing serious complications if they get the flu

Who should not be vaccinated?

There are a few types of people that should not get a flu vaccine without talking to their doctor first.

  • People who have a severe allergies to eggs
  • People who have had a reaction to the vaccination in the past
  • People who have a moderate-to-severe illness with a fever should wait until they recover to get the vaccination.

You should get the flu shot at the start of flu season, but it’s never too late. Flu vaccines are offered in many locations, such as the doctor’s office, clinics, health departments, and pharmacies.

Source:
http://www.webmd.com/cold-and-flu/flu-guide/fact-sheet-vaccines

Melanie Marzillo
Research & Community Education

Chicago Skilled Nursing
Chicago Senior Living