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Don't Let The Flu Get You Down

by Betty Soldz

Winter will soon be here and with it the flu season. Now is the time to stop the flu before it gets to you. Although an influenza shot might benefit anyone it is especially important if you are 65 or older, or have a chronic illness or are a caregiver to someone with a chronic illness. The Centers for Disease Control recommends an annual flu shot for everyone 50 years or older. Many people find going for a flu shot an inconvenience but it is important to take the time to protect ourselves.

Flu is a serious and contagious disease that strikes the lungs, causing swelling and inflammation. Although it is a respiratory disease, flu affects the whole body with fever, chills, loss of appetite, weakness and aching. Often it is accompanied by coughing. One might feel exhausted for days afterwards. According to the Centers for Disease Control it can lead to pneumonia.

Influenza vaccine can prevent the flu. Because Influenza viruses change often, the vaccine is updated every year, Although any vaccine can cause problems, such as allergic reactions, the risk of serious harm from flu shots is extremely small. According to the US Department of Health and Human Services "the viruses in the vaccine have been killed, so you cannot get influenza from the vaccine."

While some people may have side effects, for most people the only side effect, is a sore arm or a mild fever and aches. These usually last one or two days. A few people, especially those allergic to eggs (which is used in making the vaccine) and those who have had a severe reaction to the flu vaccine in the past, might not be able to take the shot. If you are one of these people or if you have questions, it is best to speak with your doctor before considering a flu shot. If you would like more information you may also contact the Centers for Disease Control at 1-800-232-2522.

The best time to get your flu shot is October or November: before the flu season begins. It is possible to get your flu shot in December but you should be aware that it takes about two weeks for full protection to develop.

Most senior centers, drug stores, and many hospitals, as well as other community organizations, have flu clinics in the fall. Most of these are free to seniors because flu shots are covered by Medicare. Now is the time to make arrangements to protect your health. You'll be happy you did.

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