Flu season is quickly approaching.
It starts in October and can run as late as May. Generally, influenza—a respiratory illness caused by a virus—peaks in January or later.
The severity of symptoms associated with the flu can range from mild to severe, and can even cause death. Certain individuals are at greater risk of developing complications of the flu, including children under 5, adults over 65, pregnant women, and individuals with certain medical conditions like asthma or cancer.
Individuals who get the flu often experience symptoms such as fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headaches, fatigue, and vomiting and diarrhea. People with the flu can pass it on when they cough, sneeze or talk.
One day before symptoms develop and up to five to seven days after becoming sick, most people are contagious and may infect another individual. Certain individuals, including children and people with weakened immune systems, may be able infect others for an even longer period of time.
The best way to avoid catching the flu is to get vaccinated.
There are two types of flu vaccines, the "flu shot," and the nasal spray. The shot is an inactivated virus administered by a needle, and is approved for use in people over the age of 6 months, including healthy people, people with chronic medical conditions and pregnant women. The nasal spray is made with a live, weakened flu virus that does not cause the flu. It should only be given to healthy people between the ages of 2-49, who are not pregnant and who do not work with people with compromised immune systems, such as health care providers. The flu vaccine protects against three of the most common strains of flu viruses, including H1N1, H3N2, and influenza B.
Some individuals should not get vaccinated at all. These include people with a severe allergy to chicken or eggs, people who developed Guillian-Barre syndrome (GBS) within 6 weeks of getting a flu vaccine in the past, and children younger than 6 months of age. Be sure to contact your doctor before getting a flu vaccine.
There are many places to get a flu shot in Perry Hall. Most primary care providers will be administering flu vaccines. In addition, most retail pharmacies are offering flu shots for a marginal fee. The American Lung Association offers a flu vaccine finder at http://www.lungusa.org/lung-disease/influenza/flu-vaccine-finder/.
Remember, the single best way to prevent the flu is by getting vaccinated. So, what are you waiting for? Get out there, and get vaccinated!