The weather is getting cooler and the leaves are changing, which also means that Influenza season is in full swing. Influenza is very different than what most people generally refer to as the “flu”. It can be a very serious illness, which leads to over 1,500 deaths in the U.S annually, and 250,000-500,000 deaths worldwide.
Influenza is characterized by sudden onset high fevers, headache, severe body aches, cough, runny nose and sore throat. Nausea, vomiting and diarrhea can sometimes accompany it also.
Everyone is at risk for developing the illness, but certain people are at even higher risk. This includes: those younger than 2 years old or older than 65, pregnant women, those with chronic illnesses and suppressed immune systems.
Influenza is spread by droplets in the air caused by sneezing or coughing and also by hands, which are contaminated. One great way of preventing the illness is by frequent hand washing. Another way is to get your annual influenza vaccine.
Here are some common myths about the influenza vaccine:
“Every time I get the flu shot, I get the flu”
The influenza vaccine is prepared using a dead virus, therefore it is impossible to get the flu from the vaccine. It does take up to 10 days for your body to build immunity; therefore it is possible to get the flu within that timeframe if you are exposed to somebody who is sick.
“I never get the flu, so I don’t need a flu shot”
Again, the flu is different than the common cold. Many people have never had an influenza infection but once you do develop it, it can cause a severe illness sometimes resulting in hospitalization and death.
“I’m skipping the flu shot this year because my relative is undergoing cancer treatment and I do not want to get her sick”
All the more reason to make sure you get your influenza vaccine! This way you can protect yourself and your loved one. You may get infected with the influenza virus but develop mild symptoms or no symptoms at all. If you are unvaccinated you can spread the virus to people around you who have a weakened immune system and make them very sick.
There are only a few cases where you should not get a flu shot – if you currently have a severe illness with a high fever, if you are allergic to eggs or if you had previously had an allergic reaction to the vaccine.
Enjoy the season and stay healthy. Make sure to schedule you flu shot with us as soon as possible, if you have not already done so.