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Fight the Flu

Ali Lesterberg, BSN, RN, ACMC-Willmar

Facts Behind the Flu Shot

When it comes to flu season we have all heard the excuses for not getting the flu shot: I never get sick, I am going to get sick either way and of course the flu shot makes me sick.

The reality is everyone is vulnerable to the flu. But there is one thing you can do to help prevent getting sick this season: a vaccine!

Influenza is a contagious respiratory illness that varies in severity. In the United States, millions of people become infected with the flu each year with thousands of cases resulting in death. Those infected may experience many cold-like symptoms including fever, sore throat, a cough, runny or stuffy nose as well as muscle or body aches, headaches, fatigue, or vomiting and diarrhea, which are more common in children than adults.

So how does the flu shot keep you from getting sick? Flu vaccines cause antibodies to develop inside the body that help protect against infection. Influenza vaccines are designed to protect against three or four flu viruses that are likely to spread and cause illness during flu season. This includes two A strains and one or two B strain(s).

Let's dig deeper into those excuses for not getting a flu shot.

EXCUSE

I Never Get Sick

FACT

When it comes to the flu, there is no rhyme or reason as to who gets it and who doesn't. Young children, elderly adults, pregnant women and those with chronic health conditions are at a higher risk for flu-related complications, but are not necessarily more susceptible to the flu.

Influenza is highly contagious and is most often spread when an infected person coughs, sneezes or speaks. The virus can also live on objects such as doorknobs, pens or eating utensils and can be spread to others from up to six feet away. An infected person is contagious one day prior to showing symptoms and up to five days to seven days after becoming sick. To sum it up, no matter how strong your immune system may be, you can still fall victim to the ferocious flu.

EXCUSE

I Am Going to Get Sick Either Way

FACT

The vaccines effectiveness varies, but the flu shot can reduce the risk of becoming infected by about 50% to 60%. Although the flu shot cannot guarantee total protection, the decreased odds of getting the flu is in your favor.

The shot can also reduce the severity of your symptoms and duration of the illness if you become infected. The likelihood of being hospitalized due to flu-related complications drops by more than 70 percent if vaccinated.

EXCUSE

The Flu Shot Makes Me Sick

FACT

Despite popular belief, the flu shot CANNOT give you the flu. The vaccine is created using either an inactive or recombinant virus, therefore it won't infect the body. It does however, take up to two weeks for the vaccination's defense to begin working. That is why it is important to get the shot early to ensure you are fully protected before flu season is in full swing.

Some patients do experience minor side effects from receiving the flu shot including soreness, redness and swelling of the injection site, a low grade fever and minor aches. These side effects are far more manageable than the debilitating symptoms of influenza.

Missing the Mist?

Let's face it, nobody enjoys getting a shot. This is especially true for children. Shots can be scary, uncomfortable and downright difficult. This is why many patients and parents have opted to skip the shot and have their child receive the nasal mist.

Unfortunately, recent studies have shown concerns about the decreasing effectiveness of the flu mist. This is why the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that all patients, six months and older, receive the seasonal flu shot and not the flu mist. This is an effective measure for keeping you and your child from getting sick. Although the reason is still unclear, researchers are looking into why the effectiveness of the mist has been decreasing over the last couple of flu seasons. The hope is to be able to safely bring the mist back to use in the upcoming years.

Remember good health habits to help prevent the spread of germs and prevent the flu. These include covering your cough, washing your hands, getting plenty of sleep, drinking plenty of fluids and eating nutritious foods. The single best way to prevent the seasonal influenza is to get vaccinated each year, so roll up your sleeve and give it a shot!

Visit www.cdc.gov/flu for more information on influenza.