National health care organizations want everyone to be healthy and are taking important steps to show our communities the importance of getting vaccinated against the flu. For the eighth year in a row, the American Hospital Association’s (AHA) United Against the Flu campaign helps increase the number of vaccinated individuals in the state of Wisconsin by providing information about the flu, debunking myths and providing information on who can be vaccinated and when.
This fall, Tomah Health encourages you to ensure your family schedules their flu shot and follow up with your family’s primary care provided to ensure your family is also up to date on other recommended vaccines.
To schedule your flu shot, call our Tomah Health Warrens Clinic at 608-377-8792 or visit our Warren’s Clinic page for more information.
What is the flu?
Influenza is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses that infect the nose, throat and lungs. Influenza is commonly called the flu – but it is not the same as the stomach “flu” viruses that cause diarrhea and vomiting.
How does the flu spread?
The flu is easily spread from person-to-person who are in close contact primarily by tiny droplets that are expelled out into the air when infected people cough, sneeze or talk. These droplets can be breathed in by people nearby causing them to become ill as well. Although most spread is by inhalation, it is possible a person might get the flu by touching another person (such as shaking hands) or by touching objects that infected people have touched or that have the flu virus on it. . If someone touches the object and then uses their hands to touch their face, mouth or eyes the virus can make them sick.
What are the symptoms of the flu?
Flu symptoms usually come on suddenly and can cause mild to severe illness. Cold Symptoms usually develop more slowly than the flu.
Common signs and symptoms of the flu are:
- Fever (not everyone with the flu will have a fever)
- Fatigue (tiredness)
- Sore throat
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Body/muscle aches
Period of contagiousness?
You may be able to spread flu to someone else before you know you are sick.
- People with the flu are most contagious in the first 3-4 after their illness begins.
- People may be able to infect others beginning 1 day before symptoms develop and up to 5 to 7 days after becoming sick.
- Some people, especially young children and people with a weakened immune system may be able to infect others for an even longer time.
Onset of symptoms?
The time from when a person is exposed and infected with flu to when symptoms begin is about 2 days but can range from about 1 to 4 days.
Who can get the flu?
Anyone can get the flu. There is a greater risk for those with pre-existing medical conditions, and those over the age of 65 and under the age of five to develop a more severe case of the flu. It is also important to know that even young and healthy individuals can also become very sick and serious problems related to the flu can happen to anyone at any age.
How long can the flu last?
The flu can last a few days up to two weeks.
It is important to know when to seek medical attention. If you have flu symptoms and are at risk of complications, see your doctor. If you have emergency signs and symptoms of the flu, get medical care right away.
Emergency signs and symptoms can include:
- Difficulty breathing
- Chest pain
- Ongoing dizziness
- Severe muscle pain or weakness
- Worsening of existing medical conditions.
Parents please reach out to your pediatrician or family provider for additional information on signs and symptoms to watch for.
Complications of the flu:
Complications of the flu can include bacterial pneumonia, ear infections, sinus infections and worsening of chronic medical conditions, such as congestive heart failure, asthma, or diabetes.
Is the flu preventable?
The answer is yes! The best way to protect yourself and the people around you from the flu is to get the flu vaccine every year in the fall
. Even if you typically do not get sick, being vaccinated will stop you from spreading it to others at higher risk.
Flu vaccines have been shown to reduce flu related illness and the risk of serious flu complications that can result in hospitalizations or even death.
In addition to being vaccinated, you can take these steps to stop the spread of flu germs:
- Avoid close contact with those who are sick or “under the weather”
- Cover coughs and sneezes-
- Frequent hand washing – wash your hands with soap and warm water for 20 seconds or with an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth.
- Clean and disinfect surfaces that are touched often at home, work, or school.
- Take good care of your body.
- Get plenty of sleep.
- Drink plenty of water.
- Eat food high in nutrients, such as vegetables, fruits, and nuts.
- Stay physically active.
- Manage stress.
Who can get the flu vaccination?
Almost anyone can get the vaccination. The CDC recommends anyone 6 months of age or older to get an annual vaccination.
Flu vaccines are also recommend for pregnant people.
When should I get the vaccine?
Flu season is most common in the fall and winter months although the flu does occur all year round. It’s recommended to get your vaccination between September and October. Ideally, everyone should be vaccinated by the end of October. It takes about two weeks after vaccination for antibodies to develop in the body and provide protection. That is why is it is best to get vaccinated before influenza viruses start to spread in your community.
Debunking the top 3 flu shot myths:
1. I don’t need to get the flu shot each year
False: A person’s immune protection from vaccination declines over time. An annual flu vaccine is needed for optimal protection.
Flu viruses are constantly changing. The composition of the flu vaccination is reviewed annually and vaccines are updated to protect against the viruses that research indicates will be the most common during the upcoming flu season. Like Covid, the virus can change and morph into different variants. Due to this, the flu shot is engineered to fight of the new strains so each year it is important to get a shot to stay healthy.
2. It’s better for me to get sick with the flu.
False: Each year the flu can hit each person’s immune system differently. The flu virus can cause other serious health problems in the body leading to hospitalization or death. In addition being vaccinated protects yourself and those around you who may be immunocompromised or more at risk.
3. The flu shot will make me sick.
False: There is no evidence that getting a flu vaccination increases your risk of getting sick, including the Covid vaccine. Like any vaccination, the number one side effect of the injection is the injection site may be sore or tender.
While a flu vaccine cannot give you the flu, you may experience different side effects associated with getting a flu shot. These side effects are usually mild and short-lasting compared to the flu. The viruses in a flu shot are killed (inactivated), so you cannot get the flu from the flu vaccine. It is normal to have side effects because the vaccine is teaching your body’s immune system how to protect itself from the disease.
Common side effects are: headache, fever, muscle aches, nausea, and fatigue. Now that you know your facts about the flu, how to prevent it, and vaccine information, you have the power to protect yourself and your family against influenza through on-time flu vaccination.
Content source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases (NCIRD), Tomah Health Patient Education Library: Flu/Influenza