If you have ever had the flu, like the majority of us, the discomfort and misery seems endless. I remember the first and only time I had the flu, which was also my first year at college. I did not want to get out of my bed, go to class or even open my eyes for a solid week. What I’m wondering is this: before the terrible, seasonal influenza strikes back, is there a way to prevent it?
Flu season can start as soon as October and stretch all the way through May. Are you kidding me? Although the flu can make you feel awful for weeks, it is also a deadly issue. According to the statistics presented by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over the course of 31 flu seasons between the years of 1976 and 2007, the estimated yearly death toll ranged from a high of 49,000 to a low of about 3,000. Those are terrifying numbers of flu-associated deaths. Should we, as young adults, be fearful? About 90 percent of the deaths occur in elderly people, usually 65 and older, but there are always exceptions to the general rule. Even extremely healthy people can become a victim to the flu and worse, spread it.
According to Rebecca Boehler, the director of the Shepherd’s health center, flu shots are worth a try. Flu shots are available by appointment for $15 and the health center accepts cash, check or Rambler. Boehler said that if she could issue flu shots for free, she would without a doubt. She says that she gets a flu shot to protect the rest of her family. Boehler added that the shot is highly recommended for the elderly population. Moreover, she suggests getting a flu shot once a year, and an individual can begin this annual regimen as early as the age of 6 months. Although the CDC states that the flu shot cannot actually cause the flu because the vaccine either contains a deactivated virus or a non-existent one, severe allergic reactions still rarely occur.
So, how do you know if you have the flu? Anyone who has had the flu previously will know, but I’ll provide a list of symptoms for clarification. A fever of 100 degrees or more is possible, but not all people who have the flu develop a fever. Coughing, a sore throat, a runny or stopped-up nose, headaches, body aches, cold chills, tiredness, and nausea or vomiting are all listed as indicators of the flu on a government-sponsored website dedicated solely to influenza. Generally, the flu can be differentiated from the common cold because the symptoms are intensified.
Many people are advocates for regular flu shots. Personally, I have never had one. Could the flu shot have prevented me from getting the flu and suffering for over a week? It’s hard to tell. Normally, it takes about two weeks for your body to react and develop antibodies after receiving a flu shot. Although the CDC recommends that everyone get a flu shot this season, there are some people who are especially at risk and more susceptible to the flu. Pregnant women, people with certain medical conditions such as diabetes, children younger than five and people older than 65 should get a yearly flu shot according to the CDC’s Advisory Committee. Though many healthcare professionals recommend a flu shot, the choice is still up to you. Whether you decide to get the shot or not, remember to take extra care and preventative action, such as simply washing your hands to combat the spread of viruses since flu season is upon us.