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Healthy Geezer

It’s important to get a flu shot every year

By Fred Cicetti | Sep 18, 2013

It’s that time of year again. The flu vaccine is available. Getting vaccinated every year is the best way to protect against the flu.

There are two types of vaccines: the flu shot and the nasal spray.

The flu shot is given with a needle, usually in the arm. The flu shot is approved for use in people older than 6 months, including healthy people and those with chronic medical conditions.

There are three different flu shots available: a regular flu shot approved for people ages 6 months and older, a high-dose flu shot approved for people 65 and older, and an intradermal flu shot approved for people 18 to 65 years of age.

The intradermal flu vaccine is a shot that is injected into the skin instead of the muscle. The intradermal shot uses a much smaller needle than the regular flu shot, and it requires less antigen to be as effective as the regular flu shot. Antigen is the part of the vaccine that helps your body build up protection against flu viruses.

The nasal-spray flu vaccine is approved for use in healthy people 2 through 49 years of age who are not pregnant.

Flu is a contagious illness of the respiratory system caused by the influenza virus. Flu can lead to pneumonia, bronchitis, sinusitis, ear problems and dehydration.

Droplets from coughing and sneezing spread the flu. An adult with flu can infect others beginning one day before symptoms develop and up to five days after becoming sick. Children may spread flu for more than seven days.

The recovery time for the flu is about one to two weeks. However, in seniors, weakness may persist for a longer time.

The common scenario for flu is a sudden onset of symptoms, which include chills, fatigue, fever, cough, headache, sore throat, nasal congestion, muscle aches and appetite loss.

While nausea, vomiting and diarrhea can be related to the flu, these are rarely the primary flu symptoms. The flu is not a stomach or intestinal disease. The term “stomach flu” is inaccurate.

When symptoms strike, get to a doctor as soon as possible. There are prescription antiviral drugs to treat flu.

Over-the-counter medicines can help relieve symptoms of the flu. You should also drink liquids to prevent dehydration, and sleep to bolster your immune system.

The best way to combat the bug is to get the flu vaccine. You have to get inoculated annually because new vaccines are prepared every year to combat new versions of the virus. When you battle the flu, you develop antibodies to the invading virus, but those antibodies don’t work on new strains.

The vaccine does not prevent flu in all people; it works better in younger recipients than older ones.

Contrary to rumor, you can’t catch the flu from the vaccine. The flu vaccine is not made from a live virus.

The vaccine can be administered anytime during flu season. However, getting the vaccine earlier is better. Adults over 50 are prime candidates for the vaccine because the flu can be fatal for older people.

You can get the flu vaccine from your doctor, at public health centers, senior centers, pharmacies and supermarkets.

Three kinds of influenza viruses commonly circulate among people today: Influenza A (H1N1) viruses, influenza A (H3N2) viruses, and influenza B viruses. Each year, these viruses are used to produce seasonal influenza vaccine.

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