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Jan 16

Flu: Not something to sneeze at

Posted on January 16, 2020 at 1:58 PM by Katie Combs Prichard

It’s easy to ignore something that has become familiar. For me, it’s the dripping faucet in my shower. At first, the annoying drip, drip kept me up at night. After a few weeks, though, I no longer noticed the drip—it just faded into the background. It’s now been several months and I still haven’t fixed the leak.

This time of year, influenza, better known simply as the flu, may for many people fall into the category of familiar enough to ignore. Flu is not a new disease—you hear about it every year. You may have even had the flu before, and you recovered completely. No big deal, you think.

Ignoring the flu because it feels familiar would be a big mistake. Chances are, you don’t know the flu as well as you think you do. Here are some things that you might not know:

  • Flu kills. During the last flu season, about 60,000 Americans died of the flu. That’s nearly the entire population of Rocklin.
  • Influenza has nothing to do with the “stomach flu.” Influenza is a respiratory infection affecting the nose, throat, and lungs. The so-called stomach flu is irritation of the stomach and intestines and is rarely serious. While some kids with influenza may have vomiting and diarrhea, in general, if you have gastrointestinal symptoms, you don’t have the flu.
  • Flu shots aren’t just for your parents or grandparents anymore. Public health experts now recommend that every person at least 6 months old get a flu shot every year. Including you!
  • Being allergic to eggs is no longer an excuse not to get a flu shot. Thanks to the wonders of science, we now have egg-free influenza vaccine.
  • The flu shot can’t cause the flu. The virus used in the flu shot — which stimulates your immune system to create antibodies to protect against the flu — is inactivated.
  • You may still get the flu even if you get a flu shot (but you should get a flu shot anyway!). I wish the flu shot were 100% effective, but it is not. It’s too soon to tell how effective this year’s vaccine is. But even if you are unlucky enough to get the flu despite getting a flu shot, your flu shot was not in vain—you will be less likely to end up in the hospital with the flu or dying from the flu.
  • It’s not too late to get your flu shot this season. I like to say that the best time to get your flu shot is in October each year, but the next best time to get your flu shot is TODAY! Flu season typically peaks in January or February and goes until April or May. It takes about two weeks after getting a flu shot to be fully protected, so if you get your flu shot today, you will be protected for much of the remaining flu season.
  • If you get the flu, you don’t just have to suffer. There are prescription antiviral medications you can take to make your illness shorter and less severe. These are especially helpful for kids under 5, adults over 65, and anyone with a chronic illness, all of whom are more likely to develop complications from the flu.

I’ve finally resolved to stop ignoring my leaking faucet and have made a plan to visit the hardware store for parts. I encourage you to stop ignoring the flu and make a plan to visit your doctor’s office or a local pharmacy for a flu shot.

Dr. Aimee, Aimee Sisson, has returned to Placer as the county’s new health officer. Contact the public health office at (530) 889-7141.