The arrival of autumn means it is time for an influenza vaccine. The best months to receive the flu shot are October or November. This provides the best protection for the peak flu season, which is December to April in our area. Because the flu virus mutates, or changes, each year it is important to get the vaccine every year. This is different than other vaccines.
The flu vaccine is the best way to prevent influenza. Every year, cases of the flu lead to hospitalizations, serious illness and death. Older individuals and younger children are at higher risk. The flu spreads from person to person in droplets made when we sneeze, cough or even talk. These droplets can infect someone up to 6 feet away, according to the CDC. We also can get the flu by touching a contaminated object or counter top then touching our own mouth or nose.
The most common symptoms of influenza are:
- fever (often as high as 104 degrees Fahrenheit)
- body aches
- nasal congestion
Sore throat and fatigue are also common. The symptoms usually last 3-4 days then improve. However, serious complications such as pneumonia can follow.
If you suspect you have influenza, get to your doctor right away. The flu shot is very effective but sometimes it does not protect us from certain strains of the flu. There are medications which can be very effective at treating the flu. These are antiviral drugs in pill, liquid and powder form that fight against the flu in your body. It is important to start these medications as early in the course of illness as possible to give them a chance to work. Sometimes the flu virus is resistant to the effects of these medications, so getting the flu shot remains the best measure against influenza.
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