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Your Flu IQ!

By Christine Stone, RN, BSN

Just like clockwork, the influenza virus starts showing up every October. And it makes millions of people miserable until sometime in May.   Symptoms of the flu include fever, cough, sore throat, runny/stuffy nose, muscle aches, headache and fatigue.   These are all annoying in and of themselves. But did you know that flu can be deadly?   Each year the flu and related symptoms send 200,000 plus people to the hospital. And if left untreated some people can die!   It’s estimated that 400,000+ deaths have been prevented thanks to the flu vaccine (between 2005 – 2014).

So What Can You Do?

It’s easy – get the flu shot!   It’s the single best way to protect yourself.   Even if you do get the flu (yes it is possible!) your symptoms will be much less severe and serious.

How Does The Flu Shot Work?

The vaccine triggers your system to produce flu-fighting antibodies.   This year (2016) there is high-dose vaccine which is 24 percent more effective. The high dose vaccine is recommended for those over age 65.

If you are one of the many people who fear needles, ask your doctor about an option for a “jet injector” which delivers the vaccine via a narrow stream of liquid.   Call your doctor’s office ahead of time to see if they provide this option.

“I Got The Flu AFTER Receiving the Flu Shot”

Is this possible? Unfortunately yes it’s possible, but NOT a good enough reason to NOT get a flu shot. Why?

  1. You may have already been exposed to the flu virus BEFORE receiving the flu shot.
  2. You may have become ill from other (non-flu) viruses or bacteria which cause cold-like symptoms or GI (gastrointestinal) symptoms.
  3. The protection from the flu shot can vary widely depending in your general health and age.

Who Should NOT Get the Flu Shot?

Any person with a severe egg allergy should not receive the flu shot.

What Else Can You Do To Protect Yourself?

  1. Wash and thoroughly dry your hands – frequently. If you don’t have access to soap and water, use a good quality hand sanitizer.  Look for hand sanitizers with at least 60% alcohol. Keep a bottles of hand sanitizer in your car, in your purse, and around your house.
  2. Use the sanitizing wipes provided in supermarkets to cleanse the handle of the shopping cart.   Keep a package of sanitizing wipes at your desk or work station.   Wipe down your phone and keyboard first thing before beginning your work day.
  3. Stay away from sick people.   People with the flu are contagious for 5 – 7 days after getting sick. Sick people should NOT go out in public until they are fever-free for 24 hours.
  4. Stop touching your face!   Studies have shown that the average person touches their face (mouth and nose) 3 – 4 times per hour.   When you touching a contaminated surface (doors, handles, doorknobs) then touch your face, you’re hanging out a “welcome sign” for flu viruses and other bacteria.
  5. If you think a friend or co-worker is sick, express your concern and suggest they go home and take care of themselves.

Finally, always check with your primary health care provider to make sure you should receive the flu shot.

If you’re worried about the cost, more than likely it will be covered by your medical insurance.

Just about every hospital, pharmacy and supermarket will be providing FREE flu shots through the fall months. Check your local newspaper for listings of locations, dates and times of free immunizations.   And if by some chance you didn’t get your shot in the fall, January is not too late to protect yourself against the flu for the new year!