|Indian summer means itís time for yearly flu vaccine
Indian summer is here in all its glory. Usually, it’s the best weather in Sonoma County.
It seems too early to worry about the flu, but flu season is just around the corner. And the flu vaccine is already available. The flu season is from November to April, with most cases occurring between late December and early March.
By getting the shot before the flu season is in full force, the body has a chance to build up immunity to the flu virus. It takes about six weeks after getting the flu shot to be fully protected.
So, now is a good time to get your annual flu shot and avoid the misery of flu symptoms later this winter. If you haven’t had the flu lately, you may have forgotten just how miserable it can make you feel. But there’s more to fear than fever, fatigue and nagging aches and pains.
From 5-20 percent of the U.S. population gets the flu every year, with 200,000 hospitalized and 36,000 deaths.
Who should get the flu shot?
Health officials recommend all adults and children over the age of 6 months, with few exceptions, get a flu vaccine.
The goal is to stop the spread of the flu by vaccinating everyone, particularly children. The highest rate of flu is found with school-age children, who then spread the disease to the more vulnerable age groups – the elderly and the young.
Certain individuals are high risk for flu symptoms and should most definitely get a yearly flu vaccine.
• High-risk children – check with your pediatrician;
• Everyone 50 years of age or older;
• Pregnant women;
• Those who have chronic lung or heart disorders (Among people with heart disease, flu can lead to viral or bacterial pneumonia that can trigger potentially deadly heart-related complications.);
• Those who have chronic diseases such as diabetes mellitus, kidney disease, severe anemia, or immune deficiency (including HIV/AIDS);
• Residents of nursing homes and other facilities that care for people with chronic medical conditions;
• Health care workers and other employees of hospitals and nursing homes;
• Police, firefighters, and other public safety workers;
• Out-of-home caregivers and household contacts of anyone in any of the high-risk groups.
Who shouldn’t get a shot:
• Anyone with a fever;
• Anyone who's severely allergic to eggs and egg products (ingredients for flu shots are grown inside eggs);
• Infants under 6 months old;
• Anyone who's ever had a severe reaction to a flu vaccination (although most people do not experience any side effects from the flu shot).
• Anyone with Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS), a rare condition that affects the immune system and nerves.
How the flu shot works
Given as an injection, the flu shot contains killed flu viruses that will not cause the flu, but will prepare the body to fight off infection by the live flu virus. Getting a shot of the killed virus means a person is protected against that particular type of live flu virus when he/she makes contact with a contagious individual.
The flu shot is needed yearly. The flu protection wears off yearly because the flu virus is constantly changing. That's why the vaccine is updated each year to include the most current strains of the virus.
The flu vaccine reduces the average person's chances of catching the flu by up to 80 percent during the season. Because the vaccine only prevents infection with some of the common yearly viruses that can cause flu-like symptoms, it isn't a 100 percent guarantee against getting sick. However, usually the flu symptoms will be fewer, short lasting and milder after a flu shot.
Most people do not experience any side effects from the flu shot. Some of those vaccinated may have soreness or swelling at the site of the injection or mild side effects, such as headache or low-grade fever. Although these side effects may last for a day, the flu can make you seriously sick for two to three weeks or longer. Also, serious complications such as pneumonia, ear infections, sinus infections, and other respiratory problems can occur from the flu.
Rarely will the flu shot cause serious side effects. The occurrence of complications from the flu itself is a much greater risk.
A common myth about the flu shot is it can actually cause the flu. But the flu shot used in the United States is made from killed influenza viruses, which means it's impossible to catch the flu by receiving it.
Flu vaccine without a shot
A non-shot option, the nasal mist vaccine, is now available as a flu vaccine. However, it contains weakened live flu viruses, so it is not for people with weakened immune systems or certain health conditions.
The nasal mist vaccine is only for healthy, non-pregnant people between the ages of 2 and 49. Check with your doctor to see if you or your child can – or should – get this type of flu vaccine.
Because the nasal spray flu vaccine is made from live viruses, it may cause mild flu-like symptoms including runny nose, headache, vomiting, muscle aches, and fever.
Preventing flu from spreading
There's no guaranteed way – including being vaccinated – to prevent anyone from getting the flu. But precautions that can help protect you and your family include:
•Avoiding large crowds whenever possible;
• Practicing good hand washing;
• Never picking up used tissues;
• Never sharing cups and eating utensils;
• Staying home from work or school when someone is sick with the flu;
• Covering your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze.
Many other vaccinations are recommended on a 10-year booster schedule: Tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis (whooping cough); measles, mumps, rubella; chickenpox; pneumococcal; Hepatitis A; Hepatitis B; and meningococcal.
Contact your physician for more details regarding your vaccination needs.
Bottom line: One of the best ways to protect your health is with a yearly flu vaccine and keeping up with 10-year booster vaccinations. I have been getting the flu shot every year for the past 25 years, and I have rarely been sick, even though I am in close quarters with people everyday.
Enjoy life and keep smiling!
George Malkemus has had a Family and Cosmetic Dental Practice in Rohnert Park for over 27 years at 2 Padre Parkway, Suite 200. Call 585-8595, or email info@ malkemusdds.com. Visit Dr. Malkemus’ Web site at www.malkemusdds.com