How do I prevent the flu?
- Get the flu vaccine! The influenza vaccine is the single most successful way to prevent the influenza infection and the complications that arise as a result of the disease (CDC, 2018). The CDC (2018) estimated for the 2017-2018 flu season the influenza vaccine prevented approximately 5.3 million influenza-related illnesses, 2.6 million influenza-related medical visits and more than 85,000 influenza-related hospitalizations. The flu vaccine is updated every year to better match circulating viruses.
- Practice frequent hand washing. Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water. The CDC recommends scrubbing your hands for at least 20 seconds. Use alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water aren’t available.
- Take your regularly prescribed medications as directed. Chronic medical conditions, such as asthma, can increase your risk of influenza complications (Thomas & Lorenzetti, 2014). It is important that you follow a plan of care set forth by your health care provider to prevent any complications.
- Practice good health habits. Get plenty of sleep, drink lots of fluids, eat a balanced diet and stay home from work when you are sick.
Who should NOT get the flu shot?
- You had a severe reaction to a previous flu vaccine. If you have ever experienced generalized hives, significant swelling, chest tightness, or shortness of breath after receiving the flu shot then you should consult an allergist before receiving the vaccine (CDC, 2018). The Allergy and Asthma Centers offer influenza vaccine testing and administration in office. You can rest assured that you will be closely monitored for any adverse reactions while protecting yourself against the flu.
Who SHOULD get the flu shot?
- Everyone else! According to the CDC (2018), the 2017-2018 flu season was the first to be classified as “high severity across all age groups.” The CDC recommends annual influenza vaccinations for everyone age 6 months and older.
I’m allergic to eggs; can I still get the flu shot?
- Yes! According to the Immunization Action Coalition (2017) most flu vaccines no longer contain egg proteins. Your allergist can help determine which flu vaccine is best for you.
Can the flu vaccine give me the flu?
- No! It is a common misconception that the influenza vaccine can trigger one to contract the flu. The vaccine is made from inactivated viruses and therefore cannot transmit the virus that causes the flu (Thomas & Lorenzetti, 2014).
- The vaccine may trigger an immune response from your body, so you may have a few mild symptoms, like achy muscles or a low-grade fever.
- It takes about two weeks for the flu shot to take full effect. If you’re exposed to the influenza virus shortly before or during that time period, you might catch the flu.
- In addition, many other illnesses, such as the common cold, can produce flu-like symptoms. If you are concerned that you may have the flu, then you should get tested by your primary care provider.
Is it too late to get my flu shot?
- Of course not! Contrary to common beliefs, the flu season typically peaks in January and February and continues until the end of March (CDC, 2018).
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2018). CDC: Flu vaccine protected millions last season; vaccine coverage remains low. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/flu/spotlights/flu-vaccine-protected-millions.htm
- Immunization Action Coalition. (2017). Screening checklist for contraindications to inactivated injectable influenza vaccination. Retrieved from http://www.immunize.org/catg.d/p4066.pdf
- Thomas, R. E., & Lorenzetti, D. L. (2014). Interventions to increase influenza vaccination rates of those 60 years and older in the community. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, (7) doi:10.1002/14651858.CD005188.pub3