Russell
Russell

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If you’ve ever had the flu, you know how sick and miserable it can make you feel. With flu season approaching, it’s a good time to answer the questions people often ask about the flu and flu vaccine. Arming yourself with facts about the flu (and getting a flu shot) can help you and those around you stay healthy.

1. Can you catch the flu from the flu vaccine? The flu shot cannot give you the flu. People who report a runny nose or cough symptoms after receiving the flu vaccine are likely experiencing symptoms of a common cold, which they were infected with before they received the flu vaccine.

2. Isn’t the flu just a really bad cold? No. Influenza may cause cold symptoms, such as sore throat, runny nose, sneezing, hoarseness and cough. However, more than 36,000 people die and more than 200,000 are hospitalized each year because of flu complications, making this virus much more serious than a bad cold.

3. Is the flu shot just for the elderly and the sick? No, the flu shot is for everyone, but it’s critical for high-risk people to get the flu shot. Very young children, pregnant women, and those who are over 65 years of age or have a chronic or long-term health condition are considered high risk because they’re more likely to suffer from complications from the flu.

Even if you aren’t considered high risk, a flu shot can protect you, your family, friends and co-workers during the flu season. The more people who get vaccinated, the more people will be protected from the flu, including those who are most vulnerable.

4. Does a person really need a flu vaccine every year? Yes. The vaccine is reformulated every year. The CDC identifies which influenza virus strains are expected to be the most prevalent for the upcoming year, so this year’s vaccine can be made to specifically protect against those strains. As a result, you need to protect yourself by getting the flu vaccine every year.

5. I’ve heard the flu shot isn’t 100 percent effective at preventing the flu. Why should I still get one? It’s true that a small percentage of people may get the flu even after receiving a vaccination. However, if you do get the flu after being vaccinated, you are likely to feel less sick than if you hadn’t been vaccinated.

6. Are there some people who should not get the flu shot? Yes. If you are severely allergic to eggs (egg proteins are used in making flu vaccines) or have had a severe allergic reaction to the vaccine in the past, you might not be able to get a flu shot or may need to have the shot administered under special supervision. Speak with your primary care provider about your options for getting a flu shot.

7. Can you spread the flu virus to someone before symptoms appear? Yes. The flu virus can spread quickly, and those infected can infect others before symptoms develop. Research shows that between 20 to 30 percent of people carrying the influenza virus have no symptoms.

8. In addition to getting the flu vaccine, what else can people do to protect themselves? You can prevent the spread of the flu virus by staying home when you are sick, washing your hands frequently and keeping your workspaces clean.

9. Will taking antibiotics help with the flu? Antibiotics work well against bacteria, but they aren’t effective for a viral infection like the flu. Then again, some people will develop a bacterial infection as a complication of the flu. It may be a good idea to get checked out by a medical professional if your flu symptoms drag on or worsen.

If you choose not to be vaccinated and do catch the flu, your loved ones are at risk of catching the virus from you. Please take the necessary steps to keep everyone healthy during this upcoming flu season.

Meghan Russell is a family practice nurse practitioner at Aurora Bay Area Health Center, 4061 Old Peshtigo Road, Marinette. Her office can be reached at 715-732-8130.