Protect Yourself and Your Family from the Flu
By Midwest Family Care
Despite the fact that South Dakota leads the nation in flu vaccination rates with more than 51% of the population being immunized, in the state last year, 365 people were hospitalized and 38 died from this very common illness.
Every year around October, the public is barraged with messages in the media about getting a flu shot. As it turns out, there’s a good reason for this. The best defense against influenza and resulting complications is immunization. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), the flu vaccine reduces the odds of getting the flu by 70 – 90 percent in healthy adults, with variance according to age and general health.
With typical symptoms including fever, chills, body aches, runny nose, cough, congestion and headaches it would seem logical that most people would choose immunization, yet each year many people don’t get vaccinated. Some say it doesn’t work. Others just don’t like the needle. But once the symptoms show up, it’s too late to get the shot.
“If there’s one thing you can do to protect yourself and your family,” says Jennifer Nelson, DO, Medical Director of Midwest Family Care, “it’s get the flu shot. It’s simple, and we know it works.”
A flu shot is not the only option. People can now choose between the shot and a nasal spray that is inhaled. Effective and for generally healthy people ages six months and up, the flu shot contains inactive flu virus that will help your body to build immunity to the illness. For children six months to eight years old who are receiving the vaccine for the first time, two doses a minimum of four weeks apart are necessary to ensure immunity. For the needle-shy, inhalable nasal mist is a good option. It does contain an active, but weakened, flu virus, but will not give a person the flu, despite rumors to the contrary. This nasal mist should only be used by relatively healthy people ages two to 49 that are not pregnant. Both of these immunizations have the same result. If you are unsure about getting a flu shot due to your health condition, consult your doctor.
Complications due to immunization are rare. In the event of a severe reaction such as swelling of the face and throat, high fever or behavioral changes, contact your doctor right away.
The peak season for influenza is unpredictable, but typically starts in October, peaks in January or February and winds up in May. Because it takes up to two weeks to build immunity, immunization should take place as soon as the vaccine is available.
In addition to the shot, it’s a good idea to start healthy habits that help you fight germs: regular handwashing; rest; stay hydrated; sanitize; cover when you cough and sneeze, avoid stress; and avoid contact with sick people. Taking care of your health should always be a priority, but getting a flu shot can also benefit the people around you, especially young children, seniors and others with a weakened immune system.
Those who do contract the flu after immunization generally have less severe symptoms and are sick for a shorter length of time. If you do get the flu, isolate yourself to help stop the spread to other family members and throughout the community.
Midwest Family Care in Sioux Falls will be offering free flu shots for children six months to 18 years of age, and for $22 for adults throughout the flu season. Be safe this season. Schedule immunizations for your family.