Get Healthy Carson City: Have you had your flu shot? | NevadaAppeal.com

Get Healthy Carson City: Have you had your flu shot?

Veronica Galas, RN
Carson City Health and Human Services

Peak flu illness largely occurs in February each year. Flu-like symptoms include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. Some people, especially children, may have vomiting and diarrhea. People may also have symptoms without a fever.

Everyone 6 months of age and older should get a flu shot every year. Flu vaccines protect against the three or four viruses that research suggests will be most common. It is the first and most important step in protecting against the flu virus. Flu vaccination can reduce flu illnesses and doctors' visits. Flu vaccination can decrease missed work and school. It can also prevent flu-related hospitalization. Data shows that even if someone gets sick after vaccination, their illness might be milder.

People at high risk of serious flu complications need a flu vaccine. High risk includes young children, pregnant women, those 65 years of age and older, and people with chronic health ailments like asthma, diabetes or heart and lung disease. Vaccination is also vital for health care workers, and others who live with or care for high-risk people to keep from spreading the flu to them.

Infants younger than 6 months are at high risk of serious flu illness. These infants are too young to get a flu shot. Studies have shown that flu vaccination of the mother during pregnancy can protect the baby after birth from flu infection for several months. People who live with or care for infants should be vaccinated.

The most common side effects from flu shots are soreness, redness, tenderness or swelling where the shot was given. Low-grade fever, headache and muscle aches also could occur. If these reactions occur, they might begin soon after the shot and last one or two days. There are studies where some people get flu shots and others get saltwater shots. The only differences in symptoms were increased soreness in the arm and redness at the injection site among people who got the flu shot. There were no differences in terms of body aches, fever, cough, runny nose or sore throat.

What about people who get a flu vaccine and still get flu symptoms? There are several reasons that might explain why someone might get flu symptoms, even after they get a flu shot.

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Some people can become ill from other respiratory viruses besides flu. There are viruses linked with the common cold. These viruses can cause symptoms similar to flu, and also spread and cause illness during the flu season. The flu vaccine only protects against influenza, not other illnesses.

It is also possible to be exposed to flu viruses shortly before being vaccinated or during the two-week period after vaccination. It takes the body two weeks to develop immune protection after being vaccinated. This exposure might result in a person becoming ill with flu before protection from the vaccine takes effect.

Finally, a person may have been exposed to a flu virus that is very different from the three to four viruses in the vaccine. The ability of a flu vaccine to protect a person depends largely on the "match" between the viruses in the vaccine and those spreading and causing illness.

So, along with getting a flu shot, it is important to take everyday actions to stop the spread of germs.

Try to avoid close contact with sick people.

While sick, limit contact with others as much as possible to keep from infecting them.

If you are sick with flu-like illness, CDC recommends that you stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone. Do seek medical care or other necessities as needed.

Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze.

After using a tissue, throw it in the trash and wash your hands.

Wash your hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.

Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. Germs spread this way.

Clean surfaces and objects that may be contaminated with germs like flu.

If you get sick with flu, antiviral drugs can be used to treat your illness. Take flu antiviral drugs if your doctor prescribes them. Antiviral drugs are different from antibiotics. They are prescription medicines (pills, liquid or an inhaled powder) and are not available over-the-counter. Antiviral drugs can make illness milder and shorten the time you are sick. They might also prevent serious flu complications. Studies show that flu antiviral drugs work best for treatment when they are started within 48 hours of getting sick. Starting them later can still be helpful, especially if the sick person has a high-risk health condition or is very sick from flu. Follow your doctor's instructions for taking this and any medication.

For information on flu vaccines, check out our website at gethealthycarsoncity.org or visit us at http://www.facebook.com/cchhs.