Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Hump Day Bonus Blog: It's Flu Shot Time!

Yep, it's that time of year. Now that the autumn weather has started (here in Chicago, anyway), we are reminded of winter colds and the flu. :-(

Don't forget to get your flu shots this season. (yes, Wednesdays are my slow days at work, obviously)

I think there are a lot of misconceptions out there about the flu vaccine (for example, that it will make you sick), so here is some information from the CDC's website:

"Influenza (also known as the flu) is a contagious respiratory illness caused by flu viruses. It can cause mild to severe illness, and at times can lead to death. The flu is different from a cold. The flu usually comes on suddenly and may include these symptoms:

Fever (usually high)
Extreme tiredness
Dry cough
Sore throat
Runny or stuffy nose
Muscle aches
Stomach symptoms, such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, also can occur but are more common in children than adults
These symptoms are usually referred to as "flu-like symptoms."

"Most people who get influenza will recover in a few days to less than 2 weeks, but some people will develop life-threatening complications (such as pneumonia) as a result of the flu. Millions of people in the United States — about 5% to 20% of U.S. residents — will get influenza each year. An average of about 36,000 people per year in the United States die from influenza, and more than 200,000 have to be admitted to the hospital as a result of influenza. Anyone can get the flu (even healthy people), and serious problems from influenza can happen at any age. People age 65 years and older, people of any age with chronic medical conditions, and very young children are more likely to get complications from influenza. Pneumonia, bronchitis, and sinus and ear infections are three examples of complications from flu. The flu can make chronic health problems worse. For example, people with asthma may experience asthma attacks while they have the flu, and people with chronic congestive heart failure may have worsening of this condition that is triggered by the flu."

In short, as you probably know, the flu sucks. It is way worse than the common cold or sniffles that most people get a couple times per year.

I got it three years ago and was bedridden for 7 days, with fever, nightmares, sweating, chills, all-over aches, etc. It was a miserable time.

Here is a synopsis of the CDC's current recommendations:

*The best way to prevent getting the flu is to get an annual flu vaccine

*There are 2 types of flu vaccines: the injection and the nasal spray (which not every health-care provider has)

*Each vaccine contains three influenza viruses-one A (H3N2) virus, one A (H1N1) virus, and one B virus. The viruses in the vaccine change each year based on international surveillance and scientists' estimations about which types and strains of viruses will circulate in a given year

*About 2 weeks after vaccination, antibodies that provide protection against influenza virus infection develop in the body

Who Should Get Vaccinated?

*Anyone interested in reducing their chances of getting the flu

*Especially recommended are people at high-risk for complications from the flu: children aged 6 months-5 years, pregnant women, the elderly, people with chronic medical conditions, people who live in nursing homes or other long-term care facilities

*Also especially recommended are people who live with or care for those at high risk for complications from flu, including: household contacts of people at high-risk for complications from the flu (above people), household contacts and caregivers of children less than 6 months (they are too young for vaccine), and healthcare workers

Who Should Not Be Vaccinated?

*People who have a severe allergy to chicken eggs.

*People who have had a severe reaction to an influenza vaccination in the past.

*People who developed Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS) within 6 weeks of getting an influenza vaccine previously.

*Influenza vaccine is not approved for use in children less than 6 months of age.

*People who have a moderate or severe illness with a fever should wait to get vaccinated until their symptoms lessen.

It's a common misconception that getting the flu shot will automatically make you sick. However, some minor side effects could occur, such as:

*Soreness, redness, or swelling where the shot was given

*Fever (low grade)


Stay tuned for a future article, where I will offer advice for those that don't listen to me, on what to do if you get the flu. ;-)