Influenza, most commonly referred to as “the flu,” is a very contagious respiratory illness. It is caused by influenza viruses A or B. Typically, those who contract the flu experience many if not all of the following symptoms: fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, headaches, muscle or body aches, and fatigue.
Generally, people recover from the flu anywhere from in a couple of days to under two weeks, but in rare cases, the flu can be life-threatening. This is because of complications such as pneumonia. Those most at risk for flu-related complications are people age 65 or older, people with chronic medical conditions, pregnant women, and young children, especially those under two years of age.
Flu season is considered to take place during fall and winter, with risks of contracting the illness peaking between December and February. However, the flu is still able to be caught as late as May, so don’t let your guard down!
A common preventative measure for influenza is the flu shot. If you are doubting the effectiveness of flu vaccinations or wondering why it is advised to get an annual flu shot, keep in mind that the flu is different each year and you will be at risk for contracting a new strain of the virus if you avoid vaccination. Although those at high risk for serious or life-threatening complications from the flu are the most advised to get a flu shot, the average person shouldn’t skip out on theirs either.
The flu shot causes antibodies that protect against the viruses in the vaccine to develop in your body, thus allowing it to defend you against the flu. It becomes effective after two weeks, with minimal side effects. These side effects may include headache, fever, nausea, and muscle aches, but they are far more minor than the painful symptoms you would experience if you were to get the flu. The vaccination contains only a very weakened or dead version of the virus.
Ways to Avoid the Flu
Getting a flu shot is by far the best way to avoid coming down with the flu, but there are other preventative measures you can take.
Be sure to thoroughly wash your hands after shaking hands with someone or touching doorknobs or public surfaces of any sort, as influenza germs can dwell in these locations for up to eight hours. It’s a good idea to carry hand sanitizer with you for situations where you don’t have access to a sink. Avoid touching your mouth, eyes, or nose with unclean hands as this can spread the flu directly into your body.
Lastly, do what you can to stay in optimal health, since a weakened immune system will make you far more vulnerable to the flu. If you’re interested in getting a flu shot this year, call us at 843-824-2273 to schedule an appointment.