It’s that time of year again. Kids come home with fevers, and coworkers come to work sick. The best way to protect yourself and your family is with the flu vaccine. Dr. Jonathan Blum, Infectious Disease specialist, Kaiser Permanente Santa Clara Medical Center, shares some thoughts about the flu season expected to start in the next few weeks.
Why get a flu shot?
The flu is more serious than the common cold, so do everything you can to prevent it. On average, 36,000 Americans die each year of the flu. Symptoms often include fever, chills, achiness, headache, cough, sore throat, exhaustion, and diarrhea. It’s not a great experience.
Most cases of influenza can be prevented by the vaccine. A flu vaccine (either a shot or the nasal spray) is your best defense. The vaccine is safe, can’t give you the flu, and has few side effects. Kaiser Permanente members can call 1-800-KP-FLU-11 or visit kp.org/flu for details on free flu clinics.
Do I need a shot every year?
The flu virus is constantly evolving, and protection from the vaccine only lasts for one season. If you’re not immunized against this year’s virus, you and those around you are at risk for getting the flu. That’s why you should get a flu shot every year. It takes about two weeks to develop immunity. So it’s best to get your shot before the flu season begins.
If you have some aches or a low-grade fever after receiving the flu shot, it can mean your body is mounting an immune response to the vaccine itself. Sometimes people get a cold or flu-like illness after the vaccine, which usually is an infection caused by one of the many other respiratory viruses that go around in the fall and winter.
Who should get a flu shot?
The Centers for Disease Control now recommends vaccination for everyone six months or older. Those most at risk for flu-related complications include:
- Adults 50 years and older
- Children six months through four years old
- Women who are or will be pregnant during flu season
- People with chronic medical conditions or weakened immune systems
- People who live in nursing homes and other long-term care centers
- Health care workers
- People who live with, or care for, anyone at high risk for flu-related complications
The flu vaccine helps prevent complications including bacterial pneumonia, ear infections, sinus infections, dehydration, and worsening of chronic medical conditions, such as congestive heart failure, asthma, or diabetes.
Does my child need a flu shot?
Children can easily spread the flu to adults and other children. Getting them vaccinated also helps protect infants (who cannot receive a flu shot), pregnant women, the elderly, and people with chronic conditions.
What else can I do to prevent the flu?
Wash your hands frequently with soap and water or an alcohol-based cleaner, especially if you have sneezed or coughed. Cover your nose and mouth when you cough or sneeze.
If you are sick, stay home so you don’t expose your coworkers. If you have a fever, wait at least 24 hours after your fever is gone without the use of a fever-reducing medicine before you return to work or school.