With flu season around the corner, you may be wondering about
the best way to stay safe, healthy and flu-free. The answer may be simpler than
you think – the flu shot! Dr. Steven
Spivey, one of our family medicine physicians at Lexington Medical Center,
shared why getting the vaccine is so important, who is at risk and other preventative
steps for warding off influenza.
“The flu is a seasonal viral respiratory illness that is one
of the most potent infections in the very young and elderly, but can affect
anyone,” explained Dr. Spivey. “It can be life-threatening and is unfortunately
responsible for hospitalizations and deaths every year.”
The flu is an airborne illness that is spread mostly by
cough and is highly contagious. Typical symptoms are cough, achiness, severe
fatigue, shortness of breath and fever.
Dr. Spivey explained that individuals age 65 years and
older, smokers and patients with a history of respiratory illness, like asthma
or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, are at the highest risk of getting
the flu (patients age 65 and older may be eligible to receive a high dose
vaccine and should ask their doctor if they are a candidate).
However, he said that the flu can hit anyone and advised
protecting yourself with the flu shot. There are a few exceptions. Children less than 6 months of age should not
be vaccinated. Also, patients with true
allergy to the vaccine or serious neurologic side effects from previous vaccination
should hold off. “Very few folks are allergic to the vaccine,” said Dr. Spivey.
“For those who have a true anaphylactic egg allergy, other vaccine strategies
may be available.”
Dr. Spivey also dispelled some common concerns that people
may have about getting immunized. “There are lots of myths about flu vaccine,
like that you don’t need to get the shot every year or that it can make you
sick,” he said. “It’s important to know that nothing in the injection can cause
the flu. It’s also important to get the flu shot annually, because the vaccine
protects against different flu strains each year.”
The bottom line, according to Dr. Spivey, is that even
though the flu shot may not be perfect, having the vaccine on board provides
protection and greatly reduces your chance of having a severe infection if you
happen to get the flu.
Remember - if you think you’ve been exposed to the flu, see
a doctor immediately, within one to two days at the latest, as medications like
Tamiflu are only effective if started early. Also, always practice regular hand
washing and avoid contact with individuals who are infected.
Without a question, the flu shot is the best way to
safeguard ourselves from influenza this season. Please take a few minutes to
get your shot and encourage those around you to do the same. The more people who get the flu shot, the less
likely there will be an outbreak this year and the healthier our community will