Seasonal influenza vaccine provides the best protection available from seasonal respiratory flu. Winter is generally considered peak flu season, with most outbreaks occurring in December, January, and February. But sometimes flu cases can occur as early as October-November or as late as April. Vaccination can lessen illness severity; pneumonia, bronchitis, sinus infections, and ear infections are examples of respiratory flu-related complications. The flu vaccination is particularly important for people at high risk for serious flu-related complications and for close contacts or caregivers of high-risk people. The CDC recommends that people who are at higher risk for complications from influenza get the vaccine, including those with asthma or other lung disease, diabetes, HIV or Aids, sickle cell disease, heart disease, cancer, adults 65 and older, pregnant women, and children younger than 5, but especially children younger than 2 years old. The flu vaccine protects against 2 to 3 viruses that research suggests will be most common for the season. Flu symptoms include: chills, fever of over 100° F , a sore throat, dry cough, and headaches, as well as an achy feeling in your legs and back. People with diabetes, even when well-managed, are at increased risk of severe disease and complications, like hospitalization and even death, as a result of getting the respiratory flu because the immune system may be less able to fight severe influenza disease. In addition, illness can raise your blood glucose level, affect appetite and usual meal planning, which can cause blood glucose fluctuations. Testing your blood sugar every 4 to 6 hours, while ill, is very important.
A flu vaccine injection cannot cause respiratory flu illness, nor “stomach” flu. The viruses contained in flu vaccines are inactivated (killed), which means they cannot cause infection. Some people get ill because they may already be exposed to an influenza virus shortly before getting vaccinated or during the two-week period that it takes for the body to gain protection after getting vaccinated. Possible side effects of the flu vaccine include: soreness, redness, or swelling where the injection was given, which usually lasts less than 2 days. Signs of serious allergic reaction can include breathing problems, hoarseness or wheezing, hives, paleness, weakness, a fast heartbeat, or dizziness. If they do occur, it is within a few minutes to a few hours after the injection. These reactions are more likely to occur among persons with a severe allergy to eggs. People who have had a severe reaction to eggs or a flu vaccine in the past should not get a flu injection until checking with your healthcare provider. Others who should not have the vaccine are those with a history of the rare syndrome called Guillain-Barre & those who are less than 6 months old. The nasal spray form of the vaccine is recommended only for healthy people ages 2-49 who are not pregnant, & those who do not have certain chronic illness, such as diabetes.
Check with your Health Care Provider if they recommend the flu vaccine for you. Flu vaccinations are available at a variety of locations: most retail pharmacies, public health departments, some urgent care centers, some “walk-in” care clinics, your physician’s office, and some churches & civic groups. For information about St. Anthony’s Urgent Care services, locations, and hours of operation, go to http://www.stanthonysmedcenter.com/urgentcare. For more influenza and vaccine information, go to http://www.cdc.gov/flu.