You feel awful; you’re shivering. Your body aches, your nose is running, and you can’t kick the cough out of your raw throat. It’s the flu. For most people, it means a few days off from work or school. For others, the flu is a life-threatening condition. National Influenza Vaccination Week offers a timely reminder to get your flu shot – and make sure your at-risk loved ones do the same.
Influenza viruses infect the nose, throat, and lung; the respiratory illness is highly contagious. Between five and 20 percent of the US population will get the flu this year, and 200,000 will be hospitalized for complications related to the flu.
Who’s at Risk?
For otherwise healthy people, the risk of serious complications is relatively low. However, some populations do face a big threat:
If you fall into any of these categories, ask your doctor about an influenza vaccination. This is one of the safest medical products in the world. And no, it does not cause flu. The vaccine contains inactivated virus. Some people do experience side effects, such as fever, headache, nausea, and soreness around the injection site.
What Can You Do to Prevent Flu?
Well, one way is to get your vaccination! Also, be sure to cover your sneezes and coughs with your elbow, wash your hands regularly, and wipe down surfaces that people with the virus may touch (e.g. tables, phones, computer keyboards, etc.).
Be aware that you can be contagious for up to a week after you develop symptoms (and a day before!). If you do have the flu, try to limit contact with people to avoid spreading it.
See your doctor for a flu shot now. For some people, it saves some aches and pains. For others, it saves lives.