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Get the Shot, Not the Flu

10-07-2014

Doctor HuebertBy Dr. Allison Huebert

Welcome to flu season! It's tough out there. You are trying to pick up some groceries or do some Christmas shopping but you could just get something else: the flu. I'm not suggesting you hibernate this flu season. We have a great weapon in this battle. ARM YOURSELF with the flu vaccine!

Think you don't need the flu shot? Think again! While it's true that certain high risk groups should vaccinate early and as high priority, the flu shot is actually recommended for everyone from 6 months old and up. The vaccine is a mix of killed virus strains to ramp up your immune defenses. While you may feel achy after getting you shot, you can't get the flu from receiving the flu vaccine! For almost everyone, the shot is safe and effective.

Especially susceptible groups should get their flu shots as early in the season as possible. This includes pregnant patients, those with respiratory problems (asthma, for example), the elderly and chronically ill (diabetes), and anyone with immune disorders. Age plays a large role in flu severity- the elderly and children under 2 years old are at higher risk. Sadly, the great majority of flu-related deaths occur in people aged 65 and older. Household contacts of those in the high risk groups are also strongly advised to get vaccinated.

Flu ShotThere are rare contraindications to the flu shot. The traditional vaccine can cause reactions in patients with egg allergies. Fortunately, there is a new option for the egg allergic: an egg-free flu shot. Rarely, someone is truly allergic to the vaccine. Others directed away from flu vaccination include people who are already sick (waiting for recovery is best) and anyone with the rare neurological disease Guillain-Barre Syndrome. These are very small numbers in the face of the recommendation that everyone over 6 months of age be vaccinated.

So, why should YOU get vaccinated? First, the vaccine is a simple thing to do and the flu is NOT NICE. Even if you sail through your flu experience, who wants to be sick at all! In addition to feeling bad, do you want the expense from buying drug store remedies and missed work? In a real sense, it's expensive to get even a mild case of flu.

If your own health and cost is not enough, look around you. Will you be with your parents at Christmas? Doesn't your mom have diabetes? Your kids are busy with school...sidelined with the flu could be a frustrating and miserable time! Your sweet little niece is so cute. This time of year, let's spread cheer, not germs. Let the flu stop with you! Talk to your doctor about the flu shot and follow her or his advice.

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