Flu 101: everything you need to know about the flu vaccine in 2017

flu vaccine

History of flu

If you have ever been caught off guard by the flu, you know how much it can wreak havoc on your life. The flu virus changes every year and there is no way to know in advance how brutal the strain will be. Massive flu epidemics cause large outbreaks with many casualties, as was the case with the bird flu in the late 1990s and SARS in 2003. To prevent infection, the best plan is to get an annual flu shot. The CDC estimates that the 2015-2016 flu vaccine prevented 5-million cases of the flu and 71,000 hospitalizations. With that in mind, we urge you to get your flu shot.

Common Flu Symptoms

Unfortunately, the flu doesn’t take the same path for every person, so the symptoms vary. You often hear people saying, “I was fine driving home and then it hit me all of a sudden.” This can be the case, or it can sneak up on you a little at a time. This year, most people describe the following symptoms: the chills, headaches, fever, body aches, mild runny nose or sore throat, and mild to moderate cough. Some of these symptoms overlap with the symptoms of the common cold. The biggest indicators that you have the flu (and not just a cold) are a high fever, headaches, body aches, and fatigue.

Safety of Flu Vaccines

There is, unfortunately, a lot of misinformation in circulation about the flu vaccine. Two of the most common pieces of false information are that vaccines cause autism or other developmental disabilities and that flu vaccines actually cause the flu. Both of these claims are wrong. Study after study has proven that the flu vaccine is in no way responsible for autism development in children. As for the claim that the flu vaccine causes the flu, this is also not true. Since we give the flu shot in the winter when people are prone to getting colds, it’s likely that people get a cold after their flu shot and confuse the very similar symptoms for those of the flu.

When Should I Get My Shot?

The best time to get the flu vaccine is when it first becomes available in September. In many cases, the earliest days of vaccinations will be reserved for community members who are at the highest risk of contracting the flu and those who are most in danger if they acquire the flu. But in the following weeks, flu vaccinations open to the general public. Most of the time, the flu hits between mid-December and early January, so if you wait too long to get the shot, you may find shortages as people rush to get their vaccines before it’s too late.

Things To Remember

Before you make an appointment with your doctor, here are a few things to keep in mind about the flu shot.

1.The Vaccine Isn’t Perfect: The flu vaccine is predictive, but not perfect. In any given year, it may completely prevent the flu, or it may only decrease the symptoms so you feel half as sick. In any case, getting a flu shot is better than not getting a flu shot. And there is no way to know how beneficial the shot will be until flu season begins.

2. You Must Get The Flu Shot Annually: You cannot get a flu vaccine once and think you’re set for life. The flu changes every year, and so the vaccine needs to be redesigned. Even if the formula doesn’t change, you will still need a new vaccine every year since the coverage only lasts throughout the given flu season.

3. What To Do If You Get The Flu: If you do end up with the flu there is an antiviral (Tamiflu) that helps minimize the effects of the flu. You must take it within the first 2 or 3 days of getting sick and it can shorten the flu by about one day. If you don’t take Tamiflu, you will still heal, just slightly later. Tamiflu is not a replacement for the flu shot, as you will still experience the full effects of the flu for at least several days. But if the flu virus is not as effective as planned, you do have Tamiflu as a semi-solution.

Who is Most At Risk?

We reserve the biggest concern for very young children, people with asthma or other lung issues, and the elderly. If you fall into one of these categories, please get your flu shot early to make sure there is enough vaccine available. We start vaccinating kids after 6-months, and we give two doses the first time a child is vaccinated. After that, they’ll just get one dose every year.

There are very few things that interrupt your life as vehemently as the flu. If you have a family, it can be even worse, as the flu will spread through your household infecting each person in turn. If you have a job, it will keep you home (or you’ll risk infecting colleagues). There is simply no reason to risk infection by the flu when there is a practical, easy, low-cost option to prevent it. The flu shot is covered by most insurance carriers, and is available at every hospital and pharmacy in your city. Please, take care of yourself and your family and get the flu shot this season.

To schedule an appointment to get your flu shot with Peninsula Doctor, please contact us at (650) 800-3365.

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