October – the month of Halloween hauntings and flu shots! While you’re at the local grocery store picking up Fun-Size Snickers, stop by the pharmacy to get your annual vaccination. Each year the vaccine changes, in hopes of preventing the current year’s anticipated flu strains.
Why should you be frightened of flu?
- The consequences of flu are ghoulish – intense body aches, fever, fatigue, cough, runny nose
- The potential for complications such as bronchitis, pneumonia, dehydration, and death
- Those with pre-existing medical conditions such as diabetes, chronic lung or heart disease, or impaired immune function are at greater risk for serious illness
- Up to 70% of flu-related hospitalizations occur in people aged 65 and older
- As many as 85% of seasonal flu-related deaths occur in people aged 65 and older
Flu vaccines are typically between 40-60% effective; predicting which strains will be most prevalent each year is less precise than predicting what costumes kids will be wearing for trick-or-treating. There is still benefit even when the flu vaccine strains don’t hit the mark exactly. You build antibodies to flu over two weeks after receiving the shot, which may lessen the severity and duration of your illness even if it’s not a perfect flu-strain match.
If you think you’re getting the flu (most notable early symptoms are body aches, congestion, and extreme fatigue), call your doctor right away. If you start taking an antiviral medication such as Tamiflu within 48 hours of onset of symptoms, the duration and severity of symptoms will be reduced.
Other tips when dealing with flu:
- Drink extra fluids such as electrolyte drinks, water, tea, broth, flat 7-up, ginger ale, chicken soup (but not dairy products)
- Stay home and rest – not only does rest help you recover, but nobody else wants to get your flu!
- Have someone stay with you or check in with you frequently to make sure your condition isn’t worsening and to provide nutrition/fluids/care
- If you feel lightheaded, dizzy, short of breath, wheezy, confused or delirious, call 911
- If you have dark yellow urine or low urine output, difficulty breathing, high fever (102+) that does not respond to home care, call 911
Marla LeFevre, RN
Director of Health Services