With the onset of fall weather, the annual appeals begin:
The commercials, public service announcements and news coverage get old after a while, but it turns out the information is pretty important — at least if you want to avoid the flu this winter.
Here at Frederick Memorial Hospital, we follow the guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and encourage all of our healthcare workers to get a flu shot. We have set times for employees to go to Employee Health to get their free doses. The director of the department even roams the halls of the hospital with a cart full of vaccine to catch offer it to employees who are afraid of shots are too busy to go down to the office.
For most of us, having the flu is an inconvenience. Time off work or school feeling miserable isn’t my idea of fun, but I know I’ll recover. For certain parts of the population, though, that simply isn’t the case.
According to the CDC, just about everyone should get a flu vaccination. Keeping that advice in mind, it’s especially important for the following groups to get the vaccine:
- Pregnant women
- Children younger than 5, but especially children younger than 2 years old
- People 50 years of age and older
- People of any age with certain chronic medical conditions
- People who live in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities
- People who live with or care for those at high risk for complications from flu, including:
- Health care workers
- Household contacts of persons at high risk for complications from the flu
- Household contacts and out of home caregivers of children less than 6 months of age (these children are too young to be vaccinated)
The CDC also lists several groups who should NOT receive a flu vaccination:
- People who have a severe allergy to chicken eggs.
- People who have had a severe reaction to an influenza vaccination.
- People who developed Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS) within 6 weeks of getting an influenza vaccine.
- Children less than 6 months of age (influenza vaccine is not approved for this age group), and
- People who have a moderate-to-severe illness with a fever (they should wait until they recover to get vaccinated).
Assuming you don’t fall into one of the second set of groups, make plans to get vaccinated. You can choose the traditional flu shot or the newer FluMist® nasal spray.
The nasal spray is an option for healthy individuals ages 2-49 who are not pregnant. The spray is made with live, weakened viruses — but these viruses cannot cause the flu. Side effects of the nasal spray can include a runny nose, headache, sore throat, or cough in adults and typical flu-like symptoms in children.
The flu shot is approved for anyone older than six months. The shot includes “inactivated” viruses (which means the viruses are dead and cannot cause the flu). You may have soreness, redness, or swelling where the shot was given, a low-grade fever, or body aches.
Very few people who receive either version of the vaccine report any side effects, but if you happen to be one of them rest assured you should be back to 100% in a day or two.
Need another reason to get your flu vaccine? A recent study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal found a 19% reduction in the rate of first heart attack with the seasonal flu vaccine. Yes — getting your flu vaccine actually reduces your risk of heart attack!
Update: 10/6/2010 – Here’s proof our Employee Health staff really does roam the halls giving out flu shots!