Memorial Regional Health: The time for a flu shot is now — Seasonal flu vaccines especially important for children and adults older than 65
- Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water.
- Avoid touching your face, as germs spread this way.
- Get vaccinated.
- Take antiviral drugs, if your doctor prescribes them.
- 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 vaccination can keep you from getting sick with 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 concerns.
- You can get a flu vaccine anytime during flu season (October through May), but the earlier, the better.
Editor’s note: The following is sponsored content from Memorial Regional Health.
One hundred years ago, the world faced the most severe flu pandemic in modern history, which affected about 500 million people around the globe.
That’s one-third of the world population in 1918, and the pandemic caused about 50 million deaths. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that research of the pandemic, which was caused by an H1N1 virus with genes of avian origin, are still not well understood.
Seasonal flu and pandemic flu are very different challenges, however the way both flu viruses spread is the same: from person to person, through droplets created when someone with flu coughs, sneezes, or speaks within six feet of another person.
There have been 18 hospitalizations due to seasonal influenza in Colorado so far this season, which is trending below last year’s numbers at the same time. The peak of flu season is still one to three months away.
Anyone older than 6 months should get a flu vaccine, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Doctors recommend getting flu shots every fall, but the vaccine is generally available well into January or even later. Flu season can continue into May, but the peak period is between December and February, according to the CDC.
The flu vaccine can keep you from getting sick with the flu and reduce the risk of flu-associated hospitalization for children and adults. It can also save your child’s life. A 2017 CDC study found the vaccine significantly reduces a child’s risk of dying from influenza.
Anyone showing signs of the flu should see his or her doctor as soon as possible for one of two antiviral drugs — Tamiflu or Relenza. The CDC reports that, when those drugs are received within a day or two, they can reduce the length and severity of the flu.
Is it flu or a cold?
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 the flu comes on faster and lasts longer. While the flu, a viral infection, often resolves on its own in most people, it can be deadly for some.
Those at higher risk of developing serious complications from the flu include children younger than age 5 — especially those younger than age 2 — adults older than age 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 to see a doctor if they exhibit flu symptoms. It’s also recommended 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 MRH 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’s website. “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 and can be billed to insurance.”
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, according to the Immunization Action Coalition.
A recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows 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 the report, published in the Journal Pediatrics.
Colorado has more sunny days than most states regardless of the season, but Memorial Day weekend marks the start of sunny summertime.