Each year, up to one-fifth of the U.S. population gets hit with the flu, and more than 200,000 people are hospitalized for flu-related illnesses. Here, Registered Nurse and quality manager for Hometown Health Savannah Gonsalves answers questions about flu season 2018 and how to protect yourself.
First off, who should get the flu vaccine?
Almost everyone should get the flu shot. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends a yearly flu vaccine for everyone 6 months of age and older as the first and most important step in protecting against influenza. Different flu shots are approved for people of different ages, but there are flu shots that are approved for use in people as young as 6 months of age and up. This includes children, pregnant women, and our senior population, especially if you have a chronic illness.
Bottom line: Your best chance of avoiding the flu this season is to get your flu vaccine.
Two big things we hear every year – the flu vaccine isn’t effective and the shot can give you the flu. Are these true?
Effectiveness rates can fluctuate from year to year based on the strain of flu that circulating. In general, the flu vaccine is about 60 percent effective. In some years, it has been up to 90 percent effective at preventing the flu.
No, the shot will not give you the flu. That is a common myth. Sometimes people experience flu-like symptoms after receiving the vaccine because they are having a reaction to the vaccine. They may experience muscle aches or fatigue for a day or two as their body produces protective antibodies to fight the flu. The flu vaccine also takes about two weeks to become effective. Some people have unlucky timing and get the flu during this time. More often than not, people catch other illnesses such as a cold, which may produce flu-like symptoms.
What else should I do to prevent catching the flu?
The single best way to prevent seasonal flu is to get vaccinated each year, but good health habits like washing your hands often can help stop the spread of germs and prevent illnesses like the cold and flu.
The proper way to wash your hands is to wet them with clean, running water (warm or cold) and apply soap. Lather your hands by rubbing them together. Be sure to lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails. Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. If you need a timer, hum the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice. Rinse your hands well and dry them using a clean towel or air dry them.
If soap and water are unavailable, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol to clean hands.
Where can someone get the flu shot during flu season 2018?
Your primary care provider can answer any questions about the flu shot and get you vaccinated. Hometown Health and Renown have events scheduled through early December to help make it even easier to get vaccinated.