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The Flu and You: When to Get Vaccinated

As the summer heat fades away (yes, we did have some of that this year!) and cooler weather blows abruptly back into our lives, there is more than just the kids’ first day of school and weekend soccer games to prepare for. Flu season is on its way. Fever, chills, cough, congestion, fatigue—who needs it? Especially in our busy lives.

The flu season, which typically peaks in January or February, can be a serious health matter for many of us. Each year, approximately 5-20 percent of U.S. residents get the flu and more than 200,000 are hospitalized for flu-related complications. This includes about 20,000 children younger than 5 years old, and roughly 60 percent of flu-related hospitalizations occur in people 50 years and older.

Here’s how to prepare you and your family for the upcoming flu season.

Defend Yourself

Getting a flu vaccine at the beginning of each season is an option for many in Northwest Washington. Flu shots are developed annually by scientists, targeting that year’s strongest strain, and are 70-90 percent effective in preventing the flu. You can still get the flu after being vaccinated, but if you do your symptoms should be mild. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that everyone over six months of age be vaccinated this season.

The flu vaccine is highly recommended for those who are susceptible to its complications:

  • Age 50 or above
  • Pregnant women
  • Health care workers or their family members
  • Have a lung condition such as asthma or COPD
  • Have a suppressed immune system
  • Have kidney problems
  • Have been diagnosed with diabetes, heart disease or other chronic health issues

Who Should Not Be Vaccinated

There are some people who should not get a flu vaccine without first consulting a physician. These include:

  • People who have a severe allergy to chicken eggs
  • People who have had a severe reaction to an influenza vaccination
  • Children younger than six months of age (influenza vaccine is not approved for this age group)
  • People who have a moderate-to-severe illness with a fever (they should wait until they recover to get vaccinated)
  • People with a history of Guillain–Barré Syndrome (also known as GBS) that occurred after receiving influenza vaccine and are not at risk for severe illness from influenza

Myths About the Flu Vaccine

  • “Last time I got the flu shot, it gave me the flu.”
    False. You won’t get the flu from the vaccine.

  • “I never had the flu before so I don’t need the flu shot.”
    False. You can contract influenza whether you’ve had it before or not. There’s always a first time! Getting the flu vaccine significantly reduces the chance of getting infected.

A Word About Pneumonia

Pneumonia is a common complication of the flu in older adults. That’s why the CDC also recommends a single dose of pneumonia vaccine for all people 65 years and older, and even earlier for those with certain high-risk conditions.

Be proactive this flu season. Book your appointment now and keep your schedule free from the flu!

Sources: CDC.gov, Flu.gov

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