Don’t Take Chances With the Flu
Boosting your chances of avoiding the flu isn’t complicated. You can decrease your risk of catching it this season by taking one simple step: Get a flu vaccination.
Unfortunately, some people think that getting a flu immunization is too much trouble or costs too much.
Seasonal influenza-the flu-is caused by one of several strains of influenza viruses (type A or B) that infect the nose, throat and lungs, making life miserable for a week or two for many people—and deadly for some. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), flu season can begin as early as October and continue to as late as May. It usually peaks in January or February in the United States.
The best defense against the flu is to get immunized. Depending on your age, you can do that in one of two ways:
- With a flu shot, given with a needle. This form of the vaccine contains killed virus and is approved for all people older than 6 months of age. People older than 65 also have the option of taking a high-dose version of the vaccine. Check with your physician before receiving this vaccine if you have ever had a severe life-threatening reaction after a dose of the vaccine, are allergic to any part of the vaccine, have ever had Guillain-Barre Syndrome, or are not feeling well.
- With a nasal-spray vaccine. This form contains live, weakened flu viruses that can't cause the flu. This form is approved for healthy people ages 2 to 49 years. Check with your physician before receiving this vaccine if you have ever had a severe life-threatening reaction after a dose of the vaccine, are allergic to any part of the vaccine, have ever had Guillain-Barre Syndrome, have received any other vaccines in the past 4 weeks, or are not feeling well. It is recommended that those who are pregnant, have certain long term health problems, a weakened immune system or have close contact with someone with a weakened immune system, , are young children with chronic respiratory disorders (e.g. asthma, wheezing) or children and adolescents on long term aspirin therapy receive the flu shot. Check with your physician to see if this form of the vaccine is right for you.
Focus on Prevention
Flu viruses are spread by contact with droplets when an infected person coughs, sneezes or talks. Inhaling these droplets is the most common route to getting the flu, but many people also become infected by touching objects on which droplets have landed. You can spread the virus to others before you even feel sick yourself. The CDC states that people are infectious one day before symptoms begin and up to five to seven days after becoming ill.
You can protect yourself against the flu by doing simple things like washing your hands often, not putting your hands near your face or in your mouth and staying away from sick people. You don't need special cleansers when washing your hands; washing for at least 20 seconds with ordinary soap works fine. If soap and water are not available, an alcohol based hand rub can be used. If someone in your family has the flu, clean and disinfect surfaces that may be contaminated with the flu virus.
Find the closest Rite Aid that offers flu shots and immunizations. No appointment necessary.
Always consult your physician, pharmacist, or other healthcare professional before changing your daily activity, diet, or adding a supplement.
“Adverse Events After Receipt of Live, Attenuated Influenza Vaccine (LAIV),” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, www.cdc.gov/flu/professionals/acip/adverseLAIV.htm.
“Community Immunity (Herd Immunity).” Vaccines.gov, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. vaccines.gov/basics/protection/index.html.
“How Vaccines Work.” Vaccines.gov, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. vaccines.gov/more_info/work/index.html
Influenza Vaccine Information, by Age Group: United States, 2012-13 Influenza Season, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, www.cdc.gov/flu/protect/vaccine/vaccines.htm.
Influenza Vaccine (Inactivated) What You Need to Know, CDC www.cdc.gov/vaccines/hcp/vis/vis-statements/flu.html.
“The Nasal-Spray Flu Vaccine (Live Attenuated Influenza Vaccine [LAIV].” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, www.cdc.gov/flu/about/qa/nasalspray.htm.
“Prevention and Vaccination,” U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, www.flu.gov/prevention-vaccination/index.html.