Day Light Savings Time has occurred this week. The sun is setting at about 5 p.m. now and there is a chill in the night air. If you haven’t gotten a flu vaccine yet, now is the time. I got my yearly flu shot in mid- October. The flu season is from Nov. to April, with most cases occurring between late Dec. 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 about six weeks after getting the flu shot to be fully protected.
If you haven’t had the flu lately, you may have forgotten just how miserable the flu 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 runny or stuffy nose. But there is more to fear than fever, fatigue and nagging aches and pains. From 5 percent to 20 percent of the US population gets the flu every year, with 200,000 hospitalized and 36,000 deaths.
The highest rate of flu is found in 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 age 2 to 5 have the highest rates for visiting an emergency room or their doctor because of the flu.
Health officials recommend that all adults and children over age six months of age, with few exceptions, get a flu vaccine. The emphasis is 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, but will hinder the spread of illness throughout the rest of society.
A high-dose flu shot is recommended for people 65 and older to provide additional protection using four inactivated flu stains compared to three used in the regular dose. Also note that the cost of the high-dose flu shot is totally covered if you have Medicare.
The flu shot is needed every year. Flu protection wears off yearly since the flu virus is constantly changing. That’s why the vaccine is updated each year to include the most current strains of the virus. Scientists try to predict each year what the prominent viruses will be that season and develop the appropriate vaccine.
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 even longer. I had no side effects from the injection this year or any years previous.
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.
Many other vaccinations are recommended on a ten-year booster schedule:
* Tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis (whooping cough)
* Measles, mumps, rubella
* Hepatitis A
* Hepatitis B
The shingle’s vaccination is recommended for individuals over 60 years old.
Bottom line: One of the best ways to protect your health is with a yearly flu vaccine and keeping up with ten-year booster vaccinations. I have been getting the flu shot every year for over 25 years and I have rarely been sick, even though I am in close quarters with people every day in the dental office.
Enjoy Life and Keep Smiling!
George Malkemus has 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’ Web site at http://www.malkemusdds.com