Stick It to the Flu

Stacy Matson | Celebrity Health
Stick It to the Flu

image by: Paul Swansen

Imagine the action of a vaccine not just in terms of how it affects a single body, but also in terms of how it affects the collective body of a community — Eula Biss, author of On Immunity

It’s that time of year when the days get colder, the nights get longer, the holidays are right around the corner, and your chances of getting the flu are pretty good. But it’s okay, you won’t get the flu because you’ve had a flu shot, right? You haven’t? Hmmm…

I know shots and needles are intimidating. Actually, they can be terrifying. And, yes, it can be inconvenient to take time out of your busy day to get one. And, yes there’s a lot of controversy and unclear information out there about the overall efficacy of flu shots. But, excuses and fears aside, getting a flu shot is the single most effective way to avoid getting the flu. And, seriously, if you can’t find an hour in your day to protect yourself how can you afford to be stuck at home for two weeks hacking up a lung and delirious with fever?

Still hesitant?

Perhaps this will convince you. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that during the 2017-18 flu season nearly 50 million people were sickened with the flu; 900,000 people were hospitalized due to complications from the flu; and 80,000 people died from flu-related illnesses. Yes, that was a particularly bad flu year, but these high numbers also correlate with a lower than average vaccination rate. Coincidence? I don’t think so…

I’m guessing you don’t want to be one of those statistics, right? Well, the 2018-2019 flu season has just started so now is the time to figure out how you’ll keep yourself raging fever and body ache free.

First, you need to learn to identify the differences between a cold and the flu. Colds and flu are both viral infections but a cold has mild symptoms - runny nose, sneezing, fatigue, and cough. These symptoms typically go away on their own and only last a couple of days.

Symptoms of the flu can include:

Fatigue, body aches, headache, chills, fever, sore throat, hacking cough, runny nose and congestion, and even diarrhea, nausea or vomiting. Flu symptoms typically come on abruptly, are severe, and can last up to two weeks.

That being said, most of the time all you need is a lot of rest and plenty of fluids and you should be able to recover from the flu on your own. However, if you are in a high-risk group or are experiencing severe flu symptoms such as, a bluish tint around the lips or nails, very high fever, lethargy, difficulty breathing, chest pain, or convulsions you should be treated immediately. These symptoms can be an indicator of a secondary infection, such as pneumonia, which can be fatal if left untreated.

You’re probably thinking a flu shot sounds like a good idea right about now. Which is great, but since we’re already in the early stages of flu season you need to get vaccinated ASAP. This is because it can take up to two weeks for your body to develop the antibodies necessary to fight the flu. Therefore, if you’re exposed to the influenza virus before you get the vaccine, or during that two-week period proceeding your flu shot, you can still catch the flu. As you can see time is of the essence. So, let me tell you where you can go get a flu shot, pronto.

Most urgent care centers and hospitals have walk-in flu shot clinics. However, that can take a lot of time because there is usually a long line and you cannot make an appointment. Therefore, the best way to ensure that you will be seen quickly is to find a place that offers flu shots AND takes appointments. You can go to HealthMap Vaccine Finder or Flu Vaccine Finder to find locations near you. In addition, CVS, Walgreens, and Rite Aid all offer free or low-cost flu shots and many locations will let you schedule an appointment.

I hope I’ve convinced you that the benefits associated with getting a flu shot far outweigh the anxiety and inconvenience of avoiding one. It’s quick, not too scary, and free through most insurance providers, or low-cost for those without insurance.

Stacy Matson is a health enthusiast from Southern California and regularly blogs on Celebrity Health for A Healthier World, as well as contributing to the Best of Best.

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