According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), getting the flu shot each year is the most important step you can take to avoid contracting the flu virus. The CDC recommends an annual flu vaccine for most Americans who are older than six months. Read on to learn more about the importance of preventing the flu through vaccination.
Flu season in the United States typically begins in October and can last as late as May. While most people who get the flu will not develop complications, certain groups — particularly the elderly — are at risk for developing pneumonia and lung infections if they get the flu. Since 1976, at least 3,000 Americans have died from the flu and associated complications each year, with a high annual death rate of 49,000 people (most of whom are elderly).
At SouthLake OB/GYN and Advanced Surgery, we understand the importance of preventative medicine. Maintaining good health year-round helps stop illness and disease before it starts. With the flu season upon us, it’s important to take preventive measures to staying healthy all winter long. Use flu.gov to find vaccination locations in your area.
While the vaccine is recommended for everyone over six months of age, it is even more important for those who are at high risk for developing flu-related complications. This includes children younger than 5, and especially those younger than age 2; adults older than age 65; pregnant women; those with chronic medical conditions; and those who are obese. The vaccine is not recommended for infants younger than six months of age and people who are allergic to eggs.
Because there are new strains of the flu each year, it’s important to get a vaccine annually at the start of the flu season. This year’s vaccine protects you against four strains of the virus, including H1N1 (swine flu). There is also a high dose vaccine for adults older than age 65.
The risk for side effects from the flu vaccine is low. These can include shoulder or muscle pain at the injection site or brief fainting spells. Allergic reactions to the vaccine are extremely rare. Although you may feel mild flu-like symptoms after being vaccinated, it is impossible to get the flu from the vaccine, as the virus in the inoculation is inactivated.
Each year, you should get the flu vaccine as soon as it is available in your area. You can choose from either the traditional shot or a nasal spray version of the vaccine.
Although the vaccine is the first and most important line of defense against the flu, practicing good hygiene can offer further protection. Wash your hands often, get plenty of sleep, eat well, and exercise regularly to stay healthy all flu season long.