It’s time for another Austin-area family medicine 101 class!
The unseasonably cold weather is a stark reminder that flu season is once again upon us. Every year, we hear of the dangers of the flu and the importance of preparing for it – but what is it? The flu is an upper respiratory illness caused by a virus, which is a big deal because it can kill! The young, old, and those affected with other respiratory illnesses like asthma are the most vulnerable to it.
There are several different versions of the virus so, unfortunately, you can “catch the flu” more than once in your life. Each year the flu vaccine is created by health professionals for the following year. They attempt to predict which strains of the flu will be active the next year. So, the vaccine may be created for the wrong strains and, therefore, may not be effective. However, when the right strains are chosen, the flu vaccine will work to boost your immune system against those strains and help prevent you from getting the full-blown illness.
If you have ever had the flu, you know how bad it can be: fever, chills, body aches, headache, stuffy head/ears/nose. To avoid this, consider getting the vaccine. Some studies show that when strains in the vaccine are a good match with the ones that are circulating, vaccinated individuals are 50 to 60 percent less likely to catch the flu than people who aren’t vaccinated. According to the CDC, between 5 and 20 percent of Americans get the flu each year, and more than 200,000 are hospitalized with complications. Given the odds, a flu shot is worth your time.
If you suspect you have the flu, seek medical care immediately. Certain medicines can aid in a quick recovery, but they work best if administered right after symptoms begin. If you wait too long, you may lose your chance for an easier and faster recovery. Also, if you experience the flu and feel short of breath, please seek medical care so that the flu doesn’t lead to even more serious complications like pneumonia.