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Get a flu shot — it protects you and the ones you love

As we enter cold and flu season, you’ll hear lots of excuses for avoiding a shot:

• “I never get the flu!” — Well, you may have been lucky in the past, but it’s not all about you.

• “The flu shot makes me get the flu!” — You can’t get the flu from today’s killed vaccine.

• “It is too early to get a shot.” — Flu season has begun in the Tri-State. It’s not too early.

Influenza, also known as the flu, is a contagious respiratory illness that can cause high fever, head and body aches, dry cough, sore throat, runny nose and fatigue. It is spread by coughing and sneezing, sometimes before you even know you are sick. Influenza is different from the common cold and the “stomach flu.”

It usually begins suddenly and can make you feel so tired that you have trouble getting out of bed or off the couch. Most people who get flu will recover in about a week, but some people can get very sick with complications such as pneumonia, hospitalization, and even death. Very young children, pregnant women, people age 65 years and older, and anyone with a chronic medical problem such as asthma, diabetes, heart or lung disease are most at risk from flu and its complications.

The rates of influenza-related hospitalizations and deaths vary substantially from one flu season to the next. The CDC reports that 80,000 people died of influenza or related complications in the 2017-2018 flu season. While it is difficult to predict how severe each influenza season in the Tri-State will be, it is clear that prevention is critical to reduce or prevent deaths and complications associated with it.

The flu is caused by a virus, so antibiotics don’t help your body fight it off. The first and best way to protect against flu is to get a yearly flu vaccine for yourself and each member of your family. Flu season may begin as early as October and can end as late as May. Flu vaccination is recommended for everyone 6 months and older every year by the CDC.

When the vaccine is well matched, receiving a flu shot has been shown to reduce the risk of getting sick with flu by about half. If you still do get sick, getting your flu vaccination reduces your risk of going to the hospital, how sick you get, and your risk of death. Getting yourself and your family vaccinated also can protect others around you who may be more prone to serious flu illness.

In addition to getting a flu vaccine, you and family members should take actions to help prevent the spread of germs. Stay away from people who are sick as much as possible to keep from getting sick yourself.

If you or your child are sick, avoid others as much as possible to keep from infecting them. Also, remember to regularly cover your coughs and sneezes, wash your hands often, avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth, and clean surfaces that may be contaminated with flu viruses. These actions help reduce your chances of getting sick and prevent the spread of germs to others if you are sick.

If you haven’t already, stop by your pharmacy or ask your health care professional to get your flu shot. By doing this, you help protect those who are pregnant, elderly, suffering from chronic conditions, and small children who may not have strong immune systems. It helps you take care of the ones you love! Do it for them!

For more information, contact your health care provider or go to: https://www.cdc.gov/flu


Craig Kimble and Charles “CK” Babcock are the assistant professors of pharmacy practice, administration and research at the Marshall University School of Pharmacy.