(BPT) – Many dread winter – the darkness, frigid weather and snowstorms. For everyone, especially elderly individuals and children, winter also carries one major health concern — seasonal influenza (the flu).
The flu is a contagious, highly communicable infection that predominantly attacks the nose, throat and lungs. It can cause mild to severe illness and can sometimes lead to complications and death. In fact, it is estimated that more than 200,000 people are hospitalized due to flu-related complications in the U.S. each year. Certain populations including children, the elderly, and people with certain chronic health conditions are at greater risk of complications from the flu.
“As flu seasons can be unpredictable and severe, protecting you and your family from infection is critical,” says Kim Tran, MS, PharmD, Pharmacy Manager, South Miami Pharmacy. “The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that everyone 6 months and older get vaccinated. More recently, increased emphasis has been placed on designing vaccines for different age groups, ranging from young children to those aged 65 years and older.”
The majority of flu vaccines are made in one of two ways: with flu vaccine viruses that have been inactivated and are not infectious, or with no flu vaccine virus at all. Since it can take up to two weeks to obtain full immunity, it is possible to be exposed to influenza during this time and still become infected with the flu. That’s why it is important to get your flu vaccine soon after the vaccine becomes available, by October if possible. However, as long as flu viruses are circulating it is not too late to get vaccinated.
In addition to a flu vaccine, you should take everyday precautions against the spread of germs. Wash your hands often with soap and water, cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze and try to avoid close contact with sick people. If you have flu-like symptoms, try to stay home for at least 24 hours after the fever is gone to minimize exposing others to the virus.
You could avoid the aches, soreness and fatigue that come with the flu by simply getting vaccinated. For additional resources regarding what is best suited for you, please visit www.whatsyourfluplan.com.