Flu Facts: From Shots to Treatment

Getting influenza (the flu) is not a pretty picture: fever, chills, fatigue, headache, coughing, sore throat, and aching muscles. Even worse, it may last for a week or more. Fortunately, the flu can sometimes be prevented through vaccination and other precautions.

The Flu is a Serious Disease

“Flu viruses are very contagious,” says Dr. James Drinkard. “In an average year, 10 to 20 percent of Americans get infected with some form of influenza.”

For many people it causes loss of work, pneumonia and even hospitalization. But for others it has more serious effects. Each year in the United States, about 20,000 people die because of the flu — many who could have been saved by getting a flu shot.

Flu shots Can Help

For many people, the flu can be prevented through a flu vaccination. For some, flu shots are a lifesaver; studies show that the influenza vaccine can prevent a majority of the hospitalizations and deaths from influenza-related complications among the elderly.

Who Should Get Vaccinated

The best way to decide whether to get vaccinated is to talk with your doctor. (Put this on your list of questions for your annual checkup with your Primary Care Physician!) Getting the shot every year is strongly recommended for those at high risk for flu complications, including:

  • people 65 or older
  • members of residential care facilities
  • adults or children with chronic diseases (such as asthma, diabetes or heart conditions)
  • people with weakened immune systems
  • health care workers
  • household members of people in higher-risk groups

A few people should not get the shot. Check with your doctor before getting a flu shot if you are pregnant, allergic to eggs, currently ill (especially with a fever), or if you had a past allergic reaction to a flu vaccine (which is very rare).

When to Get a Flu Shot

A new shot is needed every year. Health officials change the vaccine each year because flu viruses are constantly changing. Also, the vaccine’s protection, which begins after one to two weeks, only lasts for up to a year.

It’s best to get vaccinated between October 1 and November 15, before flu season starts. Flu shots are available through your doctor or low-cost flu clinics.

Other Ways to Avoid the Flu

You can prevent the spread of infection among your family and coworkers by taking some simple precautions.

  • Wash your hands often.
  • Don’t run yourself down; eat right, exercise and get plenty of rest.
  • Keep your telephone mouthpiece clean.
  • Don’t share food, drinks, dishes or towels.

What to Do if You Get the Flu

Get lots of bed rest and drink plenty of clear liquids. Also, stay home at least the first few days if possible. And you don’t need to take antibiotics — they are not effective on cold and flu viruses.

A Quick Quiz: What�s Your Flu IQ?

Answer true or false, then check your answers below.

    1. Most deaths from the flu occur in seniors.
    2. Flu vaccine protects against all flu and flu-like viruses.
    3. If you get the flu, call your doctor if still sick after a week or if your fever is over 102 degrees.
    4. People who work with children should not get the flu vaccine.
    5. Antibiotics aren�t effective for viruses (such as strep throat).
    6. In 1968-69, the Hong Kong flu led to 34,000 deaths in the United States.
    7. Influenza vaccine also protects you from other respiratory infections, such as colds and bronchitis.

If you want to work toward a healthier lifestyle, you don’t have to do it alone. Simi Valley Hospital can help. Please call our us at (805) 955-6890 to find out about our free and low-cost health classes. We can also help you find a physician; just call Referral Services at (805) 955-6900.

Note: This is for information purposes only and not intended for use in place of the advice of a physician.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDCP).


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