Flu season is here and the best way to protect against flu is to get a flu vaccine. Annual flu vaccination is recommended for everyone 6 months of age or older.
Flu, also known as influenza, is a contagious illness caused by the influenza virus which infects the nose, throat, and lungs. Symptoms include fever, chills, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, headache, muscle aches, and fatigue. Flu also can cause pneumonia. Other illnesses can have similar symptoms and be mistaken for flu. If flu is suspected, your doctor may be able to order a test that can detect the flu virus in the nose or throat.
Can flu cause serious illness?
Yes! Flu can lead to very serious complications, including pneumonia, and even death. For example, from 2009 to 2010 in the United States, 275,000 hospitalizations and 12,500 deaths were estimated to have occurred due to flu. While serious complications from flu are more common among certain people–children younger than 5 years of age, adults age 50 or older, pregnant women, and people with certain chronic medical conditions, complications also can occur in otherwise healthy individuals of any age.
How do I protect myself and my family from flu?
The most important step in protecting against flu is to get a flu vaccine every year. Getting a flu vaccine may also protect your family and others around you. How? If you don’t get vaccinated and become infected with flu, you can spread the virus to others who may be at high risk for serious illness or death from flu, such as a baby, a child, a pregnant woman, grandparents, or a friend. Also helpful in preventing the spread of flu is washing your hands frequently, or using an alcohol-based hand rub, as well as covering your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze.
Is the flu vaccine safe?
Yes! The most commonly administered flu vaccine is the “flu shot.” It is made of killed virus, so you cannot get the flu from it. The most common side effect from the flu shot is soreness where the shot was given, which typically lasts only one or two days. The risk of serious problems from the flu shot, such as a severe allergic reaction, is extremely small. Of course, even if you get the flu shot, you still can catch a non-flu virus or bacteria that may cause symptoms that mimic flu.
Where can I get the flu vaccine and how long does it take to develop immunity?
See your doctor or go to other locations where the flu vaccine is being offered. It typically takes about two weeks for your body to develop an immune response after getting the flu vaccine, so get vaccinated now to protect yourself and your family. Remember, flu activity in the United States usually peaks in January or February and can continue to occur as late as May.