12/16/2016

Who should get the flu shot? Everyone.

Flu season is here, and if you haven’t taken a flu shot, now is the time to do it. 

The flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses that infect the nose, throat and lungs. The flu can cause mild to severe illness, and can even lead to death.

Erica Merritt, Clinical Pharmacy Specialist of Emergency Medicine in the Candler Hospital Emergency Department

The best way to prevent getting the flu is to get the flu vaccine every year, says Erica Merritt, Clinical Pharmacy Specialist of Emergency Medicine in the Candler Hospital Emergency Department.

“You should get a flu vaccine because it’s going to build your immunity,” Merritt said. “Prevention is the best method to help not only yourself but your family and the other people that are around you because the flu can spread very easily.”

Anyone six months old and older should get the flu vaccine once a year.

Pregnant? It’s highly recommended pregnant women get the vaccine, Merritt said.

Going through chemotherapy treatments? Definitely get the flu shot, Merritt adds.

Even those with egg allergies, who’ve in the past been excused from getting the vaccine, are now encouraged to get a flu shot.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends getting the flu shot once it becomes available, which is typically September or early October. Flu season starts in October and normally runs until March, but cases have been seen in the St. Joseph’s/Candler emergency departments into April.

The flu can be a miserable illness. Symptoms may include:

  • Fever or feeling feverish/chills
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Possible vomiting and diarrhea (especially for children)

The flu vaccine is administered via needle most commonly in the upper, muscular portion of your arm. There are different brands of the flu vaccine but all are either trivalent or quadrivalent, covering three or four types of the flu virus and those similar. There also are high dose flu vaccines available for the elderly or people with decreased immune systems.

However, there is bad news for parents: The CDC no longer recommends the nasal spray flu vaccine.

So as the days continue to get colder, now is the time to get your flu shot if you haven’t done so yet. You can schedule an appointment to get a flu shot with the St. Joseph’s/Candler Center for Medication Management by calling 912-819-8407.

Or better yet, find your medical home and get an appointment with one of our Medical Group doctors.

Most insurance companies cover the flu vaccine with no or very low co-pays. Talk to your physician or local pharmacy about payment options.

Myths About the Flu Vaccine

You’ve probably heard the excuses or used them yourself. ‘I’ve never had the flu so why should I get a flu shot?’ Or, ‘I heard the flu shot makes you sick so I’m not getting one.’

Both false, Merritt says.

If you haven’t had the flu, consider yourself lucky, as Merritt does who’s worked in the Candler Hospital ED full-time since 2007 and never had the flu. She credits getting the flu vaccine (and a little bit of luck) for that.

Regardless of whether or not you’ve had the flu, getting the flu vaccine is the best way to prevent getting any symptoms of the illness. The flu spreads easily. When someone with the flu coughs, sneezes, kisses or even talks to you, you are opening yourself up to contracting the virus.

Some people will say getting the flu shot made them sick. Well, that’s not entirely accurate, Merritt says. Yes, some people may experience nausea or fatigue, but it’s because your body is building immunity to the flu virus. Merritt said it takes your body about two weeks as it produces antibodies and immunity to fight off the virus if it attacks in the future.

“I would encourage people to do everything they possibly can to protect themselves from getting the flu, and your best chance of doing that is to get the vaccine,” Merritt said.

One more thing, Merritt adds: Getting the shot doesn’t hurt that bad. Some people can expect a sore arm or redness at the injection site for a few days. If you don’t feel 100%, don’t panic. It’s not the flu, Merritt says.

“It’s your body doing what it is supposed to do when it gets a vaccine.”

 

Want more?

For more information about the flu, Merritt recommends visiting cdc.gov/flu. The website includes tons of information on influenza, signs and symptoms, complications, treatments and much more.

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