Why the Flu Vaccine?
By: Shirley A. Jewell, BSN, RN
Shelby County Health Department (SCHD) Immunization Program
People have numerous questions concerning the flu and the need to be vaccinated. The CDC (Center for Disease Control) recommends that everyone 6 months of age and older receive a flu vaccine every year, including pregnant women. According to CDC guidelines, it is recommended that pregnant women get a flu shot during any trimester of their pregnancy to protect themselves and their unborn child. Contrary to popular belief, you cannot get the flu from the flu vaccine. Below are some important questions and answers about the flu.
What is the flu?
The “flu” is a short name for influenza. It is an infection of the nose, throat, and lungs. The infection is caused by a virus. In the United States “flu season” can begin as early as October and last as long as May. It is highly recommended that you get vaccinated against the flu by October, if not as soon as possible.
How is the flu spread?
The flu is contagious. It spreads mainly when people sneeze or cough and droplets land in the mouth of people close by. Also you can get the flu if an object such as toys, doorknobs or used tissue has the virus on it and the person touches their eyes, nose or mouth after touching these objects.
A person can spread the flu to others 1 day before he or she is sick and as long as 5 to 7 days after becoming ill. Children and people who are very sick can spread the flu longer than 7 days after getting sick.
Is the flu serious?
The flu can be mild to serious. It can even lead to death. Anyone can become very sick from the flu but it is most dangerous for babies, young children, pregnant women and people 65 years and older. Also the flu can be serious for those with long term health problems such as asthma, diabetes, cancer and heart disease.
What are the symptoms of the flu?
Flu symptoms can be different depending on age.
The symptoms may include:
- fever ( everyone may not have a fever with the flu)
- muscle aches
- sore throat
- runny or stuffy nose
There may be vomiting and diarrhea in children
What can I do to protect myself and others from the flu?
The flu vaccine is the best protection against the flu. It protects not only you, but others from getting the flu.
Others ways to protect against the flu, along with the flu shot includes:
- Cough or sneeze into the sleeve of your shirt or a tissue. Throw the used tissue away.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after coughing or sneezing.
- Stay away from people that are sick as much as possible
- If you have the flu, stay at home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone, without the use of fever medicine such as Tylenol. Leave your home only for emergencies and to get medical care.