Well Women Care
The Facts About Flu
Because the flu is an annual occurrence, it is often not taken seriously. Many people get the flu and after a few weeks of misery, recover and are fine, but not everyone is so lucky. This is why the flu should be taken seriously. The flu kills up to 30,000 Americans each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). It is especially dangerous to those with chronic respiratory disease, the elderly, the very young, and those with compromised immune systems.The Centers for Disease Control recommend the flu shot for anyone over the age of six months, so children should also be getting the vaccine. Getting the flu shot provides important protection for those getting immunized, but also for the community at large. If more of us get the shot, our community as a whole will be better protected. By preventing the flu virus from entering our community, we protect its most vulnerable members, including the elderly, infants, toddlers and children.
When is flu season? We are in the middle of flu season right now. Flu season runs from roughly September to May, but it tends to be more prevalent during the late fall and winter.
Is it too late to get the flu vaccine? No, as you can see, flu season runs into early spring, so getting the flu shot in January can still give you some critical protection.
Can anyone get the vaccine? Most flu shots are egg-based. Unless you have an anaphylactic (life-threatening) reaction to eggs, you can still safely receive the flu vaccine without serious side effects. If your egg allergy is severe in nature, ask your doctor about the Flublock vaccine, which is not egg-based. Flublock is currently only available for adults. Your doctor can advise you as to which vaccine is best.
How does the flu vaccine work? When the flu vaccine was first produced, it only included two strains/types of flu; soon thereafter it included three strains, and more recently, a four-strain version became available. The mix is never perfect, but every year the strains most likely to cause disease are chosen for the vaccine. There is no one hundred percent guarantee that the shot will protect you from the flu, given the diverse strains that may be out there, but the odds are greatly in your favor.
Can you get the flu from the vaccine? One common misconception about the flu vaccine is that it can CAUSE the flu. This is simply incorrect. The flu vaccine is a live virus, but it cannot cause the flu. The most common symptoms in reaction to the vaccine are tenderness at the shot location or fatigue or headache.
Besides the vaccine, what steps can you take to fight the flu?
1) Get the pneumonia shot, too. Since the flu is a respiratory virus, you are also at greater risk of contracting a secondary bacterial pneumonia.There are two types of pneumonia vaccines being offered–the older vaccine, Pneumovax, which covers 23 types of pneumonia bacteria, and a newer vaccine called Prevnar 13. The Prevnar 13 vaccine is FDA-approved for anyone over age 50, but it is especially appropriate for those 65 and older. Again, your doctor can provide additional information.
2) Wash your hands often, especially after being around public areas or around others who might be sick.
3) Support your immune system by eating healthy foods, getting plenty of sleep, drinking plenty of water and healthy fluids, and getting good exercise. Daily ingestion of live probiotics has been shown to reduce respiratory infections in the elderly.
4) Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. These areas are gateways for germs to pass through.
5) If you have asthma or COPD, make sure to regularly use your medications, as prescribed. These will help keep your illness under control.
6) If you develop a high fever with cold-like symptoms, this is probably the flu. Call your doctor or healthcare provider right away and ask about being prescribed TamiFlu. It can significantly reduce your flu symptoms and help reduce the risk of getting pneumonia. TamiFlu must be taken within 24 to 48 hours of the onset of flu symptoms to be effective.
What about flu protection for children? As noted, the CDC recommends flu vaccines for children ages six months and up. Your pediatrician can advise you on what type of flu vaccine is best. There are also vaccines with preservatives and vaccines without.
How to Tell the Difference Between a Cold and the Flu
* Sometimes cause a low fever–less than 101 degrees
* Typical symptoms are sore throat, mild headache, sneezing, runny nose
* You feel tired, but can usually manage daily chores
* A cold typically comes on gradually, often over a few days
* You usually don’t need to see the doctor, unless symptoms worsen or you experience:
* Prolonged coughing
* Fever that goes higher, or doesn’t go down with medication
* Shortness of breath
* Sinus pain
* Chest pain
* Increased mucus or a change in type
* Causes a fever above 102 degrees
* Your body aches all over
* You feel extremely tired, and need to stay in bed
* The flu usually hits you suddenly
* Seeing a doctor is usually advised, and especially for those who are very young, elderly, or have compromised immune systems or existing lung/heart conditions
For more information about Partners for Women’s Health, call (603) 778-0557.
Pregnancy and the Flu
Get Your Flu Shot
Over the years, some women have expressed concern about whether to get a flu shot or not when they are pregnant. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), getting a flu shot while you are pregnant is not only safe, it is one of the best things you can do.
* Influenza is a serious illness, and can cause significant problems when you are pregnant. Even normally healthy women can develop complications if they contract the flu while pregnant. The reason is because pregnancy itself causes changes in a woman’s heart, lung and immune system functions. According to the CDC, pregnant women who get the flu are at a higher risk of hospitalization and even death, than non-pregnant women. Severe illness in the mother can be dangerous to the baby because it increases the chance of premature labor and delivery.
* Getting a flu shot protects both you and your unborn baby.
When you get your flu shot, your body starts to make antibodies that help protect you against the flu. These antibodies are passed on to your unborn baby and help protect the baby for up to six months after he or she is born. This is important because vaccines do not work in babies younger than six months. In fact, babies younger than six months cannot get the flu vaccine because they will not develop a sufficient immune response.
If your child is already born, and you breastfeed your infant, your antibodies from your flu shot may be passed on to your child in your breast milk.
It takes about two weeks for your body to make antibodies after getting the flu vaccine.
* The flu vaccine comes in two forms–the injectable form or flu shot, and a nasal spray
* The nasal spray is for use in healthy people ages 2 to 49 who are NOT pregnant.
* Women who are not pregnant, but are breastfeeding, may receive either the flu shot or the nasal vaccine.
* You can receive the flu shot at any time, during any trimester, while you are pregnant. Millions of flu shots have been given to women over the years. Flu shots have not been shown to cause harm to pregnant women or their infants.
* If you have your baby before getting your shot, you still need to be vaccinated. The flu is spread from person to person. If you get the flu, you can pass it to your child. Anyone in the household who comes in contact with your baby should be vaccinated.
* The side effects of the flu vaccine are typically mild. The most common are tenderness, soreness, redness or swelling at the injection site. Some people also experience headaches, muscle aches, fever, nausea or fatigue after getting the shot. This usually passes in a day or two.
* If you have symptoms of the flu, even if you have already had a shot, call your doctor immediately. Doctors can prescribe medications to treat the flu and reduce the chance of serious illness. These medications should be started as soon as possible.
If you have any or all of these symptoms call your doctor:
* Sore throat
* Body aches
* Runny or stuffy nose
If you have any of the following symptoms, call 911 or seek emergency medical care right away:
* Problems breathing or shortness of breath
* Pain or pressure on the chest or abdomen
* Sudden dizziness or confusion
* Severe or constant vomiting
* Decreased or no movement of your baby
* High fever that is not responding to Tylenol or another acetaminophen * (Do not treat a fever without first talking with your doctor)
If you have further questions about the flu or flu vaccine, talk to your doctor. You may also get additional information at www.cdc.gov/flu.
Portions of this information were provided by the Centers for Disease Control.
For more information about Partners for Women’s Health, call (603) 778-0557.