Influenza, the medical term for the flu, is an acute respiratory illness caused by influenza A or B viruses. It occurs in epidemic form during the winter months.
While influenza is not usually life threatening for most people, for some it can cause serious lung infections, weakness and breathing difficulties.
Flu vaccine is a treatment that prevents you from getting the flu. The vaccine prepares the body to fight the viruses that cause the infection. It also protects people around you from getting sick.
Everybody over the age of 6 months should get the vaccine. It is particularly important for people who are at high risk, people who are in close contact with these people, and healthcare workers.
Strains of influenza virus change every year. Therefore, immunization from last year will not likely be effective in the following year. New vaccines are developed each year as soon as strains are identified. Even when the vaccine is less effective due to unpredictable virus strains, it still helps to decrease the intensity and duration of the illness.
For the majority of people, there are usually no side effects of the flu vaccine. It can cause redness, mild swelling, mild fever, headache, and body aches for some people. Very rarely, it can cause serious allergy reactions.
Flu vaccine doesn't cause the flu. People who get sick after the vaccine have usually been infected by flu or another virus before they had the vaccine.
There are a few other precautionary measures that can be taken to prevent flu. Wash your hands often with soap and water, or use alcohol hand rubs. Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue. Avoid touching your nose, eyes, or mouth. Drink plenty of water. Exercise regularly, and avoid crowds during the influenza season.
Get immunized and prevent the flu.
Hibberd, PL. Seasonal influenza vaccination in adults. Hirsch, MS, ed. UpToDate. Thomer, AR: UpToDate Inc. http://www.uptodate.com (Accessed on September 14, 2017)
Treanor JJ. Clinical practice: Influenza vaccination. N Engl J Med 2016; 375:1261.
Submitted by Gita Mishra, RN at Crescent Heights Medical Clinic