Living Well: ‘Tis the season for your annual flu vaccine
The flu causes thousands of deaths per year in the United States and is the most frequent cause of death from a vaccine-preventable disease.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that among children with underlying high-risk medical conditions, a flu vaccination reduces the risk of death by 51 percent. In healthy children, the risk of death was reduced by 65 percent.
“The study findings underscore the importance of the recommendation by CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics that all children 6 months and older get an annual flu vaccine,” according to a report published in the Journal of Pediatrics.
In Craig, the flu typically starts spreading in October, said Allison Hamburger, physician assistant at Memorial Regional Health. Last season, the flu peaked around the end of December and again in February. The flu season lasts from October through May.
Seasonal flu spreads from person to person through droplets created when someone with the flu coughs, sneezes or speaks within 6 feet of another person.
Annual flu vaccine
The flu vaccine is about more than just protecting yourself from the unpleasant and potentially dangerous illness — it’s about public health.
Hamburger, citing statistics from the CDC, said the flu vaccine prevented 5.3 million illnesses, 2.6 million medical visits and 85,000 influenza-associated hospital visits during the 2016-17 season.
“By obtaining the flu vaccine, we’re not only protecting ourselves, but all those around us who we want to keep healthy and safe,” Hamburger said, “especially those who are too young to obtain the vaccine or those who otherwise may have a more fragile immune system (such as the elderly, those with diabetes and those with chronic lung diseases).”
The flu shot is formulated each year to fight the latest strains of the virus. Hamburger said the vaccine has a very good safety record and is the best way to reduce your chances of getting — and spreading — the flu.
The following flu vaccine information is fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:
- Flu vaccines cannot cause flu illness.
- Some people report mild, flu-like symptoms after the vaccine, but this is rare, and it is not the flu.
- Flu vaccinations can keep you from getting sick with the flu, but it’s not guaranteed.
- While not 100-percent effective, the vaccine can help stop the spread of the virus in the community.
- Flu vaccine can be life-saving in children.
- Flu vaccine is an important preventative tool for people with chronic health conditions.
- Vaccination helps protect women during and after pregnancy.
- Flu vaccination has been shown in several studies to reduce the severity of illness in people who are vaccinated but still get sick.
- Getting vaccinated may protect people around you, including more vulnerable infants, young children, older people and people with chronic health conditions.
- Vaccines do not cause autism.
- You can get a flu vaccine anytime during flu season (October through May), but the earlier, the better.
Get your flu shot
Memorial Regional Health provides flu shots through its Rapid Care walk-in clinic, open from 7:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday. No appointments are necessary; just walk in. Flu shots are $25 if paid at the time of service or can be billed to insurance. The clinic is located at 2020 W. Victory Way. Call 970-826-8300 for more information.
“Think of the vaccine as a training activity for your body to be ready to fight the flu if needed,” she said.
Hamburger has personally experienced the benefits of preparing her body with an annual flu shot. She has come down with the virus twice, but thanks to her flu shot, she said she bounced back to normal within days.
“I know this would not have been possible without extra protection received from the vaccine to help my body have a defense plan in place to handle the virus,” she said.
The flu might mimic symptoms of the common cold at first — a sore throat, runny nose and sneezing are common — but the Mayo Clinic reports that the flu comes on faster and last longer. While the flu, a viral infection, often resolves on its own in most people, it can be deadly for others.
Those at higher risk of developing serious complications from the flu include children younger than 5 years old, and especially those under 2 years old, adults older than 65, residents of nursing homes or other care facilities, pregnant women and women up to two weeks postpartum, people with weakened immune systems, people with chronic illnesses and people who are very obese with a body mass index of 40 or higher.
Memorial Regional Health reminds parents to take children in to see a provider if they exhibit flu symptoms. It’s also recommended that children get a flu shot every season.
According to Memorial Regional Health, babies can’t blow their own noses and need help clearing their airways during bouts of colds and flu.
“That’s where the Suction Clinic comes in. The clinic is open 24/7 and parents can bring their child up to four times a day for a week with a single prescription from their doctor,” according to Memorial Regional Health. “Respiratory therapists use a nasopharyngeal suction machine to suck out secretions. Therapists also evaluate your child’s respiratory rate and oxygen saturation. Patients check in at the emergency department main desk. Cost is $128 per visit.”