Are you looking for ways to avoid being struck down by the flu? Although complete immunity can’t be guaranteed, we have some tips that might just protect you from getting sick this flu season. Steps can be taken to try to reduce your risk of infection from flu viruses. I hope you enjoy my Tuesday Tip! ~Cathy
It is a highly contagious respiratory illness that is caused by influenza types A and B viruses. Flu activity often begins in October in the U.S., peaks December through February, and sometimes lasts until as late as May.
Although flu and the common cold share many symptoms, they are vastly different. For example, symptoms of cold arise gradually and are milder than those of flu, whereas symptoms of flu come on quickly, are intense, and may result in severe health problems such as pneumonia, bacterial infections, and hospitalizations. Certain groups of people are at a greater risk of experiencing complications from flu. These groups include young children, pregnant women, adults over the age of 65 years, and those with chronic medical conditions.
Getting Your Flu Shot
Getting a flu shot is the single best thing that you can do each flu season to protect yourself from severe illness. A flu shot offers the best protection from flu viruses.
Seasonal flu shots — created to protect against three or four flu viruses that are believed to be the most common during a specific flu season — are vaccines that are usually injected into the arm with a needle. Flu vaccines trigger antibodies to develop in the body, usually within 2 weeks of having the shot. The antibodies provide protection against the strains of flu infection contained in the vaccine. Although the flu shot may have side effects in some people, it cannot cause flu illness.
Who should get the flu shot?
Everybody over the age of 6 months is recommended to get an annual flu vaccination, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Several flu shots are available depending on age and whether you are pregnant or have a chronic health condition.
Children under 6 months old are too young to receive a flu shot. People who have life-threatening allergies to any ingredient in the vaccine or have ever had Guillain-Barré syndrome should discuss the flu shot with their doctor before getting vaccinated.
- Between 151 million and 166 million doses of injectable flu vaccine are estimated to be available for the 2017–2018 flu season. When the supply of the vaccine is limited, priority will often be given to:
- children aged between 6 months and 4 years
- adults aged 50 years and over
- those with chronic pulmonary disorders or who are immunosuppressed
- pregnant women
- children and adolescents on long-term aspirin therapy
- people who work in chronic care facilities and healthcare personnel
- individuals with a body mass index (BMI) of 40 or more
- In people at risk of heart disease, their risk of heart attack is six times higher in the first 7 days of flu.
Does the flu shot work?
When the flu vaccine is “well matched” to the circulating flu viruses, the flu shot can reduce the risk of flu by 40–60 percent. A good match occurs when the viruses in the vaccine and the circulating flu viruses in any given flu season are closely related. The antibodies generated as a result of the vaccine will then effectively protect against infection from flu.
If the viruses contained in the vaccine and the circulating viruses differ, the flu shot’s effectiveness may be reduced. In mismatched seasons, the vaccine may still provide some protection against flu illness and related flu viruses.
Recent research has found that the seasonal flu shot:
- prevents severe flu in older adults and reduces admissions to the hospital
- reduces hospitalization from serious flu complications by 60 percent in children
- decreases flu cases by 70 percent in infants under 6 months whose mothers were vaccinated during pregnancy
- reduces hospital admissions in people with type 2 diabetes by 30 percent for stroke, 22 percent for heart failure, and 15 percent for pneumonia and flu
- does not heighten susceptibility to infection from flu during seasons of vaccine mismatch
Scientists worldwide are currently working to develop a “universal” flu vaccine that would make yearly vaccinations a thing of the past. A one-shot universal flu vaccine would aim to protect against all — or almost all — seasonal and pandemic flu strains.
I hope you enjoyed Cathy’s Tuesday Tip this week. To view more of Cathy’s Tuesday Tips, visit our blog.