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A simple way to keep the flu away

Flu shot, vaccination, immunization

By Nazar Raoof, M.D.

You can prevent the flu this season by taking one simple step: Get a flu vaccine. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends everyone 6 months and older get vaccinated. Unfortunately, some people think that getting a flu vaccine is too much trouble or costs too much. Or, they are sure that a flu shot will make them sick.

The flu is also called seasonal influenza. It is caused by one of several strains of the flu virus (type A or B) that infect the nose, throat, and lungs. The flu makes life miserable for a week or two for many people. But, it is deadly for some. Flu season can start as early as October. It peaks anywhere from late December to early April. Your best defense against the flu is to get vaccinated.

  • The flu vaccine is usually given by shot, most often into a muscle in the arm. This form of the vaccine has killed virus. It is approved for most people older than 6 months of age. CDC recommends that some children get two full doses one month apart. This applies to children ages 6 months to 8 years who have never been vaccinated, or received only one dose of vaccine.
  • A nasal spray may also be given for the 2018-19 flu season. It is made of live but weakened flu virus. It is for healthy children 2 years or older who don’t get the flu shot.
  • A needle-free device called a jet injector can give the flu vaccine through the skin. This may be an option for people 18-64 years old.

A flu vaccine is especially important for people who are more likely to have problems if they get the flu. This includes children younger than 5 years, and especially younger than 2 years, people 65 years and older, those with long-term (chronic) health conditions, anyone who lives in a nursing home or care facility and pregnant women and women who have had a baby in the previous two weeks.

Some people shouldn’t be vaccinated for the flu before talking with their health care provider, including people who have a severe allergy such as an anaphylactic reaction to chicken eggs, developed Guillain-Barré syndrome in the six weeks after getting a flu shot in the past, or if you currently have an illness with a fever. Wait until symptoms get better before getting the vaccine. Children younger than 6 months of age should not be vaccinated against the flu. Flu vaccines have not been approved for that age group.

Do not believe the rumor that a flu shot can give you even a mild case of the flu. It is impossible. The vaccine does not contain a form of the flu virus that can give you the flu. The injected form of the vaccine is made from pieces of dead flu virus cells. After getting the vaccine, some people have mild flu-like symptoms as a side effect.  his is not the same thing as having the flu.

The main reason you should be vaccinated each year is that the flu virus is constantly changing into new strains. Each year the CDC tries to figure out which flu strains will have the biggest effect and works with vaccine makers to create the specific vaccine that will fight the predicted strains for that year.

If you are concerned about the cost of a flu vaccine, check with your local health department for places near you where free flu shots are given. Many insurers also cover flu vaccines at no cost to their members. Discuss getting the flu shot with your health care provider today!

Nazar Raoof, M.D., is board certified in internal medicine and infectious diseases. He is medical director of Infection Prevention and Epidemiology at Hackensack Meridian Health Raritan Bay Medical Center. His office, ID Care, is located in Suite 208, 3 Hospital Plaza, at Raritan Bay-Old Bridge. To make an appointment with Dr. Raoof or any Raritan Bay physician, call 1-800-560-9990.

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