Flu shot recommended for all
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By George Malkemus  November 1, 2013 12:00 am

Fall is upon us. The daylight hours are becoming shorter. Even with beautiful warm days, there is a definite chill in the morning. 

It is time to get a flu shot. The flu season is from November to April, with most cases occurring between late December and early March. Getting the shot before the flu season is in full force gives the body a chance to build up immunity to the flu virus. 

It takes about two weeks for protection to develop and six weeks after getting the flu shot to be fully protected.

Why get the flu shot?

If you haven’t had the flu lately, you may have forgotten just how miserable it can make you feel. Symptoms come on suddenly and may last several days to several weeks. Symptoms include fever with chills, sore throat, muscle aches, fatigue, coughing, headache, vomiting and a runny or stuffy nose. But there is more to fear than fever, fatigue and nagging aches and pains. From 5-20 percent of the United States population gets the flu every year, with 200,000 hospitalized and 36,000 deaths.

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. Death rates from flu complications are highest among those 65 and older. Hospitalization is equally high among elderly and children under the age of 2. Children between the ages of 2-5 have the highest rates of visiting an emergency room or their doctor because of the flu.

Who should get the flu shot?

This fall, health officials recommend that all adults and children over 6 months, with few exceptions, get a flu vaccine. The emphasis is on stopping the spread of flu among kids, which will then keep them from spreading the disease to the wider population. The idea is that vaccinating most kids will not only spare them from the aches and pains of the flu and missed days of school, it will hinder the spread of illness throughout the rest of society.

It is advisable for most everyone to get a flu shot; you should check with your physician if you have any questions or concerns. Vaccinations are especially recommended for:

• Young children;

• Everyone 50 years of age or older;

• Pregnant women (pregnant women are recommended to get the vaccine without preservatives.);

• Those who have chronic lung or heart disorders;

• 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 to anyone in any of the high-risk groups.

How often should I get the flu shot?

The flu shot is needed every year. 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. This year’s vaccine has four major strains; last year’s had only three strains.

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.

Side effects

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 even longer.

A common myth about the flu shot is that it can actually cause the flu. But the flu vaccine used in the United States is made from killed influenza viruses, which means that it's impossible to catch the flu by receiving a flu shot.

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 years. 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 a runny nose, headache, vomiting, muscle aches and fever.

Other vaccinations

Many other vaccinations are recommended on a 10-year booster schedule, including: 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 at 2 Padre Parkway, Suite 200. Call 585-8595, or email info@ malkemusdds.com. Visit Dr. Malkemus’ website at www.malkemusdds.com.

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