Flu season has started and according to family practice physician Brian S. Neely, M.D., of Allen County Regional Clinic, now is the time to get a flu shot. Each year from November to April, millions of people are impacted by the flu, which usually enters the body through the mouth or nose.
“The flu can be dangerous, but one of the most effective ways to stop at least 75 percent of those infections is with the flu shot,” Dr. Neely says. “The vaccine decreases the chance of hospitalization by 60 percent and death from the contagious virus by 80 percent. The vaccine is not 100 percent, but most medical professionals believe it shortens the illness if you do get ill, despite being vaccinated. Secondary complications such as pneumonia are lessened if vaccinated.”
Flu symptoms can be mistaken for a cold, but the onset is typically more sudden and includes symptoms such as severe muscle aches, chills and fever, extreme fatigue, sore throat, headache and cough. The flu virus can become airborne if an infected individual coughs or sneezes, which tends to spread the flu rapidly to people in close proximity.
Dr. Neely urges people to exercise common sense when the flu hits.
“Mild flu symptoms can quickly escalate and become severe,” he cautions. “People with the flu should take precautions to protect themselves, their families and co-workers, and others by avoiding close contact and staying home from work or school until fever-free for at least 24 hours. This helps to stop the virus from spreading.”
Other tips for staying healthy and boosting the immune system during flu season include smoking cessation; eating a healthy diet of fruits, vegetables and whole grains; regular exercise; maintaining a healthy weight; drinking fluids and getting plenty of rest; practicing good hand hygiene; and covering nose and mouth with hand or sleeve when sneezing or coughing.
“It’s important to be seen by a healthcare provider as soon as symptoms begin to limit duration and severity,” Dr. Neely says.
The flu vaccine is recommended for children 6 months and older and especially for those in high-risk groups including adults age 65 and older, pregnant women, people with certain chronic conditions such as
diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease and asthma. People with compromised immune systems due to cancer are also considered at-risk and should consider a flu shot. People who have experienced an allergic reaction to a previous flu vaccine should not receive a shot. If acutely ill with a fever, they should wait until they are recovered.
“And it’s never too late to get a flu shot,” Dr. Neely says. “Though it’s preferable to get vaccinated at the beginning of the season, people can get the shot into January or even later.”
Allen County Regional Hospital, an award-winning Kansas critical access hospital, is dedicated to bringing innovative, advanced healthcare to Southeast Kansas with a compassionate, personalized style. For more information on Allen County Regional Hospital or to inquire about getting a flu shot, visit allencountyregional.com.