The Flu and You

The Flu and You

Influenza, the flu, is one of 25 diseases that can be prevented by a vaccine.

Too many people died from influenza last year in Washington State, a total of 241.  That number includes two children.  It is too late to help them but do you want to help a child this year?  Get your flu vaccine. That way our tiniest citizens take advantage of the community immunity created by everyone getting the flu vaccine.

How do you know if it is a cold or the flu?    There is no vaccine for the common cold but it is not as deadly as flu.  See the chart “Is it a Cold or Flu” for ways to tell what you are experiencing.  Note that flu viruses are generally not found here until December or January.

The flu vaccine not only reduces your risk of getting the flu, it also reduces the risk of hospitalization and death from flu related symptoms.

Who should get the flu vaccine?  Everyone over the age of 6 months should get flu vaccine as long as they have no health problems that would prevent the inoculation.

Concerned about safety?  You should be.  That being said, the flu vaccine is safe and effective.  No one died from getting a flu shot but a few from a rare but severe allergic reaction called anaphylaxis.  Now the vaccine formulas available are tolerated, even with an egg allergy.  However there is an egg-free formula available for those who need it.  While many interventions have risks, peanuts are actually more dangerous than flu vaccine.

There are anti-viral drugs that can treat either Influenza A or Influenza B if you need it.  One drug is even given as a one-time single dose.  These get the best results if they are started within 72 hours of the time when symptoms begin.

It takes about two weeks for the flu vaccine to improve your immunity.  Until it is most effective and even after that, follow these safety tips:

  1. Wash your hands with soap before eating, after using the restroom, doing pet care, and when coming in contact with others like shaking hands or praying together;
  2. Use cleaning wipes for contaminated surfaces including the phone, computer, ATM, auto steering wheels and door handles, door knobs and grocery carts to name a few;
  3. Avoid touching the “T-zone” of your face;
  4. And use a mask if you are sick or if you want to avoid germs from others who are sick

Get your flu vaccine by the end of October but if you cannot, get it as soon as possible.

Janet Schade, MS, RPh – Director of Pharmacy

Disclaimer: This Column is not intended as a diagnosis or recommended treatment of a specific condition. Answers are not a replacement for an individual medical evaluation. Individual health concerns should be evaluated by a licensed clinician.