November 7, 2007 > Protect Yourself: Flu Season is Around the Corner
Protect Yourself: Flu Season is Around the Corner
Plentiful Supply of Vaccine Expected This Year
With flu season on the horizon, now is a great time to make an appointment to get a flu shot. The flu may seem like a commonplace illness, but its nothing to sneeze at. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that as many as 36,000 people in the United States die each year from complications of the flu.
The flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses. And according to the CDC, the best way to protect yourself against coming down with the flu is to receive the flu vaccination. There are multiple strains of the virus, the vaccine produced during a given year targets those strains most likely to make people ill, which is why the CDC recommends being vaccinated every year.
While the best protection may be receiving the vaccine each year, if you do get sick, its important to recognize the signs of flu and know when to seek medical attention.
Feel like youve been hit by a freight train?
The flu may tend to exhibit a more aggressive presentation than the common cold, according to Washington Township Medical Group (WTMG) family practice physician Dr. Steven A. Curran. People with the flu may tend to feel like theyve been hit by a freight train.
Dr. Curran explains that flu may cause high fever, whole body ache, as well as intense coughing. Flu symptoms, unlike those of the common cold, may come on very suddenly, he adds.
While Dr. Curran says theres some debate within the medical community as to whether fever is a good or bad indication. Nonetheless, patients whose fever reach 102 or above should seek medical attention, as a sustained high temperature has the potential to cause medical damage.
Dr. Curran also advises against taking too much stock in old wives tales and home remedies, such as ice baths for fevers or the saying Feed a cold, starve a fever.
Now, the fear is that bringing a fever down too fast may precipitate a seizure, which is why we dont recommend ice baths he notes. Likewise, you need proper nutrition to refuel your immune system when you have a fever, despite the saying.
If high fever persists or respiratory symptoms such as a productive cough, wheezing or difficulty breathing begin getting worse, Dr. Curran says: When in doubt, go to the ER for a medical opinion.
Who needs the flu vaccine?
Many healthy people will opt not to receive a flu vaccination each year because they have been lucky enough not to come down with the flu for several years. These people, Dr. Curran says, are playing the odds, hoping they will not become ill. For other members of the population, it is more important that they receive a vaccination each year.
According to the CDC, people at high risk for complications from the flu, include:
Children aged 6 months until their 5th birthday
People 50 years of age and older
People of any age with certain chronic medical conditions
People who live in nursing homes and other long term care facilities
Those living with infants under 6 months of age or other populations susceptible to flu complications should also receive a vaccination to avoid spreading the disease.
A lot of people still dont think of children as needing flu vaccines, Dr. Curran says. The truth is that anyone above six months of age can get the flu vaccine. Those in this younger age group are considered higher risk.
How to avoid it, what to do if you get it
In addition to being vaccinated each year, Dr. Curran recommends avoiding touching the eyes, nose or mouth. Getting into good hand-washing habits can also reduce the chance of becoming ill, he says.
While theres no cure for the flu, those that do contract the flu this season may still have an opportunity to reduce their suffering, if they recognize their symptoms early enough.
Over-the-counter medications are for the most part ineffective in managing the effects of the flu, Dr. Curran says. But there are prescription anti-viral medications that, if started within 48 hours of symptoms, can partially reduce severity of the flu. In some cases, it may even be enough to ward off a full-blown attack from the flu. If you show true flu symptoms not cold symptoms then there may still be an opportunity to receive treatment early with anti-virals to minimize the flus effect or impact.
That said, Dr. Curran reiterates that its preferable to avoid getting the flu at all. And the best bet for not getting sick is to get the flu vaccine early in the season. Flu season occurs between October and April, and the best time to get vaccinated is typically October through early November of each year.
Get a Flu Shot
The single best way to protect against the flu is to get vaccinated each year. Washington Hospital Healthcare System is offering flu vaccinations to all members of the community at the following locations:
2500 Mowry Avenue, Suite 212, (Washington West) Fremont
Call (510) 608-6174 - Hours: 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., seven days a week
Well for Work (Occupational Medicine Program)
Call for locations and schedule: (510) 794-4671