Shoo Flu, Shoo!!

With Flu season looming and everyone asking if you’ve gotten a flu shot, if you plan on it, and hearing (my favorite) “Eh, I’m not going to get it, I’m healthy and it’s only the flu, I don’t get what the big deal is…” That statement clearly comes from someone who hasn’t had the flu!!  Since I became a nurse, I have always gotten the flu vaccine, mostly because it is offered to you at the hospital, and they come to give it to you….it’s actually hard NOT to get it (and it is currently required at my hospital that all healthcare workers get it.)  But the year that I lived in the UK, I did get my US flu vaccine and considered myself all set, until I flew throughout the EU and to Bali and got the flu; the sickest I have been as an adult and it was MISERABLE.  So, yes, I am a believer in the flu vaccine, and it is one of the few vaccinations that I really encourage everyone to get.

Why is the flu shot such a big deal?

Approximately 49,000 people die each year directly from the flu or flu related causes.  In 2009 (Apr-Oct) approximately 34 million people were infected with H1N1, causing millions of hospital admissions, days of lost work, money out of YOUR pocket for co-pays/meds/lost work, and not to mention one of the highest death rates in children and adults from the flu!!  If getting a quick shot can prevent all that, why not get it?

There are two different vaccines out there for the flu:

A nasal spray and a flu shot.  Both are protective of three different virus strains that the CDC research indicates will be most virulent each season.  For example, these 2010-2011 Flu vaccines will protect against the 2009 H1N1 and the H3N2 as well as the Influenza B virus.  After about 2 weeks, you will build up antibodies against the flu that will help prevent you getting infected, and if you do, it will be a very mild form, like a cold. The flu shot (actual injection) is an inactivated (not living) form of the virus that is injected directly into your arm, and is appropriate for people over the age of 6 months, and for people who are healthy or with chronic medical conditions.  After the injection, you can have redness at the site, soreness, fever (low) and some aches that last 1-2 days. The nasal-spray flu vaccine is made with living, but weakened, flu virus  that do not cause the flu and it is approved for healthy people age 2-49 years old who are not pregnant. After the nasal-spray vaccine, you can have some side effects (for adults) such as: runny nose, headache, sore throat, and cough. For children, the side effects can be: runny nose, wheezing, headache, vomiting, muscle ache, and fever.  Since the flu season is technically October to February, you can get vaccinated at any time, but I always suggest to get vaccinated as early as you can!

Who should get vaccinated?
The CDC suggests that EVERYONE 6 months and older should get vaccinated yearly!  But here is a list of “high risk” people who should definitely get vaccinated:
-Pregnant women
-Children younger than 5 years old (because they start preschool) but even children under 2 are at risk and have low immune systems- they are also at high risk
-People 50-year-old and over
-People of any age with chronic conditions (i.e. asthma)
-People who live in nursing homes or long-term care facilities
-People who live with or care for those at high risk:
Healthcare workers
Household contacts of those at high risk for the flu
Household contacts and home care givers for those less than 6 months old

Who should NOT be vaccinated?
-People with an allergy to chicken eggs
-People that have had a severe reaction to Influenza vaccine in the past
-People who have developed Guillian-Barre syndrome* within 6 weeks of a flu vaccine
-Children under 6 months of age
-People with moderate illness that have a current fever (wait until the fever subsides and then you can get a flu shot)

*(Just as a quick aside, Guillian-Barre syndrome is an autoimmune disorder that affects the peripheral nervous system and it is activated by an infectious process; basically you lose control/function of all of your muscles from the bottom of your body up, and remember that your lungs are a muscle, so it usually requires a hospital admission and a breathing tube with an acute attack!! So, you would know if you had it in the past!)

I hope you all are encouraged to go out and get a flu shot soon, they are available at pharmacies and clinics everywhere!!

Yours in Good Health