Although southern California is not known for having seasons, there is
one that is sure to go unmissed: flu season. It seems at this time of
year, everyone is sneezing, coughing or blowing their nose. With so many
germs in the air, people wonder if they stand a chance against falling
victim to the flu. The flu shot offers protection from the virus, but
many wonder if it is the right choice for them.
What Is The Flu?
Although many respiratory and stomach viruses are on the rise during flu
season, they are not all "the flu." The flu-or influenza- is
a seasonal viral infection with primarily respiratory symptoms, including
fever, head congestion and coughing. Muscle aches are also a common symptom.
Gastrointestinal symptoms such as nausea and vomiting may also be present.
Influenza has the potential to cause more serious infections, such as
influenza pneumonia, which can be life-threatening. The threat is most
prevalent to the very young and elderly.
What Is The Flu Shot?
The flu shot is a non-live vaccine that induces immunity and greatly reduces
the risk of getting the influenza infection.
Is It 100% Guaranteed To Stop The Flu?
No. It works best in people with a healthy immune system. The elderly and
very young do not have as much protection from the flu with the shot,
but they are able to receive it with no extra health risks.
Are There Side Effects From The Shot?
Most people do not experience side effects. Those who do may experience
a low-grade fever during the first 48 hours and mild flu-like symptoms.
Some may have pain at the injection site, which usually goes away in one
or two days.
How Long Will It Keep Me Flu-Free?
The flu shot works through flu season-for six months or more. It is recommended
to get the shot once a year.
Should I Be Worried About Harmful Mercury In The Flu Shot?
There is a mercury-based preservative in the multi-dose vials of the flu
shot called Thimerosal. The amount of this agent, however, is not enough
to be concerned about. The influenza vaccine has been done with the same
technology for more than 20 years. It has a very good safety record. The
controversial mercury concern is about children being injected with it.
As a precaution, no children under 6 years old are ever given the
multi-dose vial flu-shot but rather the Thimerosal-free single dose.
Where Can I Get The Flu Shot?
Flu shots are available at pharmacies, doctors' offices and flu clinics.
What Are Other Easy Tips For Avoiding The Flu This Season?
Influenza spreads by respiratory droplets. This means you can get
it by nearby coughs and sneezes, as well as touching things that have
been touched by infected people (such as door handles) and then touching
your face. Staying out of crowded places where there are sick people-or
social distancing-is the most protective measure you can take for protection.
Good rest is also important. The better rested and healthier you are,
the more likely your immune system is able to fight off infections altogether
or at least protect you from a more severe case of influenza.