Why You Need the Flu Vaccine
This week is National Flu Awareness Week. Here are some facts about the yearly flu, also called influenza, and what you need to know to stay healthy during the flu season.
What is the flu?
The flu is a contagious respiratory illness cause by circulating influenza viruses. These viruses attack the nose, throat, and lungs, causing mild to severe symptoms. Each year the influenza virus strains can change.
You may experience some or all of these flu symptoms
• Fever or feverish chills
• Sore throat
• Runny, stuffy nose
• Muscle or body aches
• Fatigue or feeling of being very tired
• In kids, vomiting and diarrhea
The flu spreads easily
Experts believe that contaminated droplets released when an individual sneezes or coughs spread the disease to others, when the droplets land on the mouth or noses of individuals nearby. You might also get the disease by touching contaminated surfaces and then putting your hand to your eyes, nose or mouth.
Time period of contagiousness
Typically you can infect others about one day before you actually experience symptoms yourself (so you don’t know that you are sick yet) and up to five to seven days once symptoms begin. Very small children, the elderly, and individuals with compromised immune systems may be vulnerable even past the “7” day period.
Who should be vaccinated?
Anyone six months of age or older, including pregnant women, should receive some form of the flu vaccine. There are several types including FluMist (non-injectable), which is appropriate for individuals’ ages 6-49 years of age, and vaccines not incubated in eggs, which are safe for individuals with a diagnosed egg allergy.
Best practices to avoid the flu
• Avoid close contact with someone who appears ill
• Wash hands frequently with very warm water and soap and in between use hand sanitizer
• Avoid touching your mouth, eyes or nose unless you’ve just washed your hands
• Regularly wipe down common and shared items like phones, handles, remote controls, computer keyboards, and kitchen and bathroom surfaces with a cleansing disinfecting agent
• Get plenty of sleep, regular exercise, hydrate and bump up the nutrition quality of your daily diet.
• Cover your mouth and nose when you sneeze or cough, with a tissue, and stay home when you are actively sick.
Complications from the flu
• Ear infections
• Sinus infections
• Worsening of chronic medical conditions (congestive heart failure, asthma, diabetes, COPD)
Yearly rates of death from flu and its complications have ranged from a low of 3,000 to a high of about 49,000 between 1976 and 2006.