Healthy Life, by Scripps Health

Column: Healthy Life, by Scripps Health

 

Keeping the Flu Away

Protect yourself and your family this season

 

Influenza, commonly called the flu, is a serious viral disease that affects the nose, throat and lungs. It also causes extreme fatigue and can put you out of commission for a week or more. The virus is easily spread by infected persons, but you can reduce your risk of catching the flu bug with an annual seasonal flu vaccine.

 

Why get vaccinated?

By far, the best way to prevent the flu is vaccination.

 

“The single best way to not catch the flu is to get a vaccine,” said Dr. Hasan. “No matter how often you wash your hands, you still have to breathe, and if you breathe in the flu germs, you can get it.”

 

Even healthy people can get the flu, along with serious problems related to the virus, such as ear infections, pneumonia and sinus infections. In addition to reducing flu illnesses, the vaccine can reduce doctor visits, avoid missed work and school, and prevent flu-related hospitalizations.

 

Moreover, skipping the flu shot can increase the risk of the virus spreading through your community.

 

“Even if you don’t mind feeling absolutely terrible and not being able to work or take care of your kids,  you can still spread the flu to other people,” said Mark Shalauta, MD, a family medicine doctor at Scripps Clinic Rancho Bernardo. “That includes kids, elderly people and others for whom the flu creates a much higher risk of serious or life-threatening complications.”  

 

The annual flu season in the United States can begin as early as October and last as late as May. Dr. Hasan stresses that it is never too late in the season to get the vaccine.

 

Moreover, since flu viruses change from season to season, it’s important to get the flu shot every year. Researchers predict which viruses will most prevalent each season, and formulate the vaccine accordingly.

 

“The past several years have been pretty spot on as far as predicting what is circulating,” said Dr. Shalauta. “It’s not 100 percent, but the more people who are immunized, the less the virus will spread around.”

 

Take time to get your vaccine

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends the vaccine for everyone 6 months and older, with a few exceptions (https://www.cdc.gov/flu/protect/whoshouldvax.htm).  Different flu shots are approved for people of different ages, and there are shots approved for pregnant women and people with chronic health conditions as well. 

 

The exceptions are:

  • Children younger than 6 months
  • People with severe, life-threatening allergies to flu vaccine or any ingredients in the vaccine 

 

Since 2016, individuals with egg allergies can receive the appropriate vaccine for their age and no longer have to be monitored for 30 minutes after it is administered. Always talk to your doctor about any allergies you have before getting the shot. If you have had Guillain-Barre Syndrome, a severe paralyzing illness, also talk to your doctor to see if you are able to receive the shot. 

 

Most people who contract the flu will recover in less than two weeks, but some groups are more likely to have complications from the flu that can result in hospitalization or even death. It is particularly important for those who are at high risk for serious flu complications to get the vaccine.

 

These include:

  • Children younger than 5
  • Adults 65 years and older
  • Pregnant women
  • Residents of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities
  • Individuals with underlying chronic conditions, such as asthma, diabetes or heart, liver or kidney disease

For more information about the flu virus and influenza vaccines, talk to your primary care doctor.

 

“Healthy Life” is brought to you by the physicians and staff of Scripps Health. For more information, or for a physician referral, visit www.scripps.org or call 1-800-Scripps.

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