Influenza, also known as the flu, is very contagious especially to the young who have not built up a powerful immune system and to the old whose immune system does not fight infections as effectively as it once did. Symptoms of the flu are fever or chills, sore throat, fatigue, cough, headache, muscle aches, and runny or stuffy nose. Flu is spread by coughing, sneezing, and contaminated hands. It usually comes on suddenly and often lasts more than a week. By contrast, symptoms of a cold are a sore throat followed by sneezing, a stuffy or runny nose, and chills; fever with a cold is rare. A cold comes on gradually and usually resolves after a few days.
The flu is dangerous because it can lead to pneumonia and blood infections, can cause diarrhea and seizures in children, and worsen underlying medical problems, such as heart or lung disease or a weakened immune system. Flu may also raise the risk of heart attack and stroke. A flu immunization will help keep you from getting the flu, or make the flu less severe, and it keeps you from spreading flu to others, especially your family.
Based on information from the CDC (Centers for Disease Control & Prevention), flu vaccines have been updated to better match circulating viruses. Most are quadrivalent (protects against four different viruses). There are no live viruses in flu shots so they cannot cause the flu. The 2018-19 nasal spray vaccine is again a recommended option for non-pregnant women and for people ages 2 through 49. This form of immunization is a live, weakened influenza vaccine so it is not recommended for persons with certain underlying conditions. This nasal spray is also a quadrivalent.
NOW is the time to get vaccinated before the flu season starts in this community. The season usually starts in October and November and can continue as late as May, peaking between December and February. It takes about two weeks for antibodies that protect against the flu to develop, so get vaccinated now. A later vaccination can still be beneficial, however, so do get a flu shot. Even if the current vaccine is not a “good match”, a flu shot will give some protection as antibodies made in response to the current vaccine can sometimes provide protection against different but related flu viruses. You may get sick but have a much milder case of the flu.
Children may need two doses, at least four weeks apart, so begin the vaccination process with them as soon as possible. Adults need only one dose each flu season. Adults 65 and older may chose the regular flu shot, Fluzone High-Dose, four times stronger, or FLAUD, with a boosted immune response. To protect children under 6 months, caregivers should have a flu shot and infants should be kept away from crowds where they might be exposed. Anyone with an egg allergy should check with their doctor before getting a flu shot.
To protect against this serious disease, get a flu shot, stay away from sick people, wash your hands often and well, keep your hands away from your face, mouth, nose, and eyes, and diligently clean areas in your home that are frequently touched when someone is sick. Wipe down your cell phone frequently! Keep fit and maintain a healthy lifestyle, with regular exercise and a nutritious diet. Skip supplements as there is little or no evidence that they boost your immune system. If you do get sick, call your doctor for prescription medications that can treat and reduce the illness; these are most effective when taken within 48 hours of the start of symptoms. Stay home so as not to spread the disease.
Most people have no reaction or a very mild reaction to the flu vaccine. If there is a serious reaction, call 9-1-1 or your doctor. You should also get immediate medical attention if you develop shortness of breath, chest pain, confusion or dizziness, or persistent vomiting, or if you do not get better in a week or two.
Take care of yourself! Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20
~ Marilyn Fleming, RN, MSN
for the Parish Nurses