Wishing You a Healthy Flu Season and a Pneumonia Free New Year

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It’s that time of year again – the leaves are turning, the weather is cooling off, the holidays are fast approaching – and that means flu season is, too. Yearly flu vaccination starts in September and continues throughout the flu season.

Here’s a tip – late October and early November are the best times to be vaccinated. Read this little primer on a yearly ritual. If you need vaccinated, now’s the time!

About the Flu Vaccine

New flu vaccines are produced every year from a “recipe” chosen by scientists who estimate which flu strains are most likely to circulate that particular year. Each year’s vaccine protects against only three flu viruses (this year it’s two type A flus – H3N1, H1N1- and one type B).

Because there are millions of flu viruses – just like there are millions of types of the common cold – getting a flu shot doesn’t guarantee you won’t get sick this winter, but it does protect you (and others you come in contact with) from the flu strains that are predicted to be most common this year.

It takes about two weeks after your flu shot before you have antibodies that protect you from the strains of the flu in the vaccine. That’s why late October /early November is the best time to get your shot. You want to get it early enough to protect you at the start of flu season, but not so early it doesn’t last all the way though until the end.

The start of flu season varies from year to year but it reaches it height after the winter holidays. Why? First, many of us travel to visit friends and family during that time and we carry our germs with us. Second, the winter season brings us into closer physical contact with each other. And third, the holidays leave most of us frazzled and worn down. These three ingredients are just what the flu needs to spread itself around.

Who Should Get a Flu Shot?

According to the Centers for Disease Control the following people should have flu vaccines (either the shot or the nasal spray):

  • Children from age 6 months to their 19th birthday
  • Pregnant women
  • People 50 years of age and older
  • People of any age with chronic lung disease, heart disease or who would be at risk for serious illness if they got the flu (speak to your health professional if you are not sure).
  • People who live in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities
  • People who live with or care for those at high risk for complications from flu, including:
    1. Health care workers
    2. Household contacts of persons at high risk for complications from the flu
    3. Household contacts and caregivers of children less than 6 months of age (because these children are too young to be vaccinated so you don’t want them to catch it from you).

Who Should NOT Get a Flu Shot?

  • People who allergic to chicken eggs (eggs are used to make the vaccine).
  • People who have had a severe reaction to flu vaccines in the past.
  • People who developed Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS) within 6 weeks of getting a flu shot.
  • Children less than 6 months of age (flu vaccine is not approved for this age group).
  • People who are currently sick and have a fever (wait until you recover to get vaccinated). If you just have a mild cold and no fever you can go ahead and get your flu shot.

Who Should Get a Pneumonia Vaccine?

  • Everyone age 65 and older. If you are over 65 and got your first dose more than 5 years ago you should be re-vaccinated. If you are in good health a single dose after age 65 is all you need.
  • If you have any of the following conditions: chronic heart or lung disease (like COPD or asthma), diabetes, cirrhosis of the liver, chronic renal failure, impaired immunity, alcoholism, sickle cell disease, cerebrospinal fluid leaks, or if you have had your spleen removed you should have two pneumonia vaccines – one at age 65 and one 5 years later.

The Centers for Disease Control strongly encourages you to get both your flu shot and pneumonia vaccine together if you are over 65 and have not yet received you pneumonia vaccination.

Can the Flu Shot Give Me the Flu?

No. The flu shot is made from an inactivated form of the virus (meaning the virus is not alive so it can not infect you). Common reactions to the flu shot are:

  • Redness or soreness at the injection site
  • Low grade fever (less than 101 degrees)
  • Body aches

These don’t always occur, but if they do, they go away in a couple of days. Though very rare, sometimes serious allergic reactions can occur, so contact your health provider with any concerns

How to Protect Yourself from Getting the Flu or Pneumonia

Your mother probably taught these to you as a child. They remain your best protection:

  • Hand washing, hand washing, hand washing – and did I mention hand washing?
  • Cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze and avoid having others cough, sneeze, touch or breathe directly toward your face.
  • Get adequate rest (most of the sick people I see during flu season tell me they are run down).
  • Eat nutritious foods and take a daily multivitamin.

If You Get the Flu:

  • Get plenty of rest and drink plenty of fluids. Gingerale, 7UP, Sprite (rather than dark colas) and sports drinks are better than water because they give you sugars and electrolytes you need to help you fight the infection.
  • Take Tylenol and you can alternate it with Advil or Aleve for fever and body aches as long as there is no reason you shouldn’t take any of these over the counter medications.
  • Report high fevers, shortness of breath or any severe symptoms to your health practitioner immediately. If what you have is the flu you will likely feel lousy for as long as 7 to 10 days. If you have pneumonia, you need treatment by a health professional.

Links to more Info from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):

Key Facts about Seasonal Flu Vaccine

Pneumonia Vaccine: What You Need to Know

CDC Says Immunizations Reduce Deaths from Influenza and Pneumococcal Disease Among Older Adults

U.S. Map of Seasonal Flu Activity

This information is offered for educational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose, prescribe or treat. For that please seek direct care from a health professional.

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1 comment so far. Add yours below.

#1 | On January 26, 2012, sangram234 said:

Hi
I used Pure Vegan B12 spray.There is also a cheaper version that does not advertise vegan but says so on the label called Pure Advantage B12.  The ingredients are identical.


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