Flu Time

It is Flu Season - Again...yes, it happens every year. Just think how lucky we are that the Flu is our major concern each Fall. Lucky? - True, Influenza can be fatal, Flu can spread to Pandemic or Epidemic proportions, but it is not that many years ago that we still had annual "Polio Season". Whew, I'll deal with the Flu!

Some things to know about Influenza...

• The flu vaccine cannot cause the flu. The viruses in the vaccine are either killed or weakened, which means they cannot cause infection.
• If given during pregnancy, the flu shot has been shown to protect both the mother and her baby (up to age 6 months) from flu.
• You can take 3 steps to fight flu: get vaccinated, practice healthy habits, and take antiviral medications if prescribed.

Can the flu vaccine give me the flu?

No, a flu vaccine cannot cause flu illness. Flu vaccines that are administered with a needle are currently made in two ways: the vaccine is made either with a) flu vaccine viruses that have been ‘inactivated’ and are therefore not infectious, or b) with no flu vaccine viruses at all (which is the case for recombinant influenza vaccine). The nasal spray flu vaccine does contain live viruses. However, the viruses are attenuated (weakened), and therefore cannot cause flu illness. The weakened viruses are cold-adapted, which means they are designed to only cause infection at the cooler temperatures found within the nose. The viruses cannot infect the lungs or other areas where warmer temperatures exist.

Different side effects can be associated with the flu shot and nasal spray flu vaccines. These side effects are mild and short-lasting, especially when compared to symptoms of influenza infection.

The flu shot: The viruses in the flu shot are killed (inactivated), so you cannot get the flu from a flu shot. Some minor side effects that could occur are:

  • Soreness, redness, or swelling where the shot was given
  • Fever (low grade)
  • Aches

The nasal spray: The viruses in the nasal spray vaccine are weakened and do not cause severe symptoms often associated with influenza illness. In children, side effects from the nasal spray can include:

  • Runny nose
  • Wheezing
  • Headache
  • Vomiting
  • Muscle aches
  • Fever

In adults, side effects from the nasal spray vaccine can include

  • Runny nose
  • Headache
  • Sore throat
  • Cough

If these problems occur, they begin soon after vaccination and are mild and short-lived. Almost all people who receive influenza vaccine have no serious problems from it. However, on rare occasions, flu vaccination can cause serious problems, such as severe allergic reactions. People who think that they have been injured by the flu shot can file a claim for compensation from the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP).

More information about the safety of flu vaccines is available at Influenza Vaccine Safety.

Pregnant Women & Influenza (Flu)

Pregnant women and the flu shot fact sheet.Flu is more likely to cause severe illness in pregnant women than in women who are not pregnant. Changes in the immune system, heart, and lungs during pregnancy make pregnant women more prone to severe illness from flu as well as hospitalizations and even death. Pregnant woman with flu also have a greater chance for serious problems for their unborn baby, including premature labor and delivery.

Flu shots will protect pregnant women, their unborn babies and even protect the baby after birth.

The Flu Shot is the Best Protection Against Flu

Getting a flu shot is the first and most important step in protecting against flu. The flu shot given during pregnancy has been shown to protect both the mother and her baby (up to 6 months old) from flu. (The nasal spray vaccine should not be given to women who are pregnant.) Learn more about the flu vaccine.

The Flu Shot is Safe for Pregnant Women

Flu shots are a safe way to protect the mother and her unborn child from serious illness and complications of flu. The flu shot has been given to millions of pregnant women over many years. Flu shots have not been shown to cause harm to pregnant women or their babies. It is very important for pregnant women to get the flu shot.

Other Preventive Actions

In addition to getting the flu shot, pregnant women should take additional everyday preventive actions.

Early Treatment is Important for Pregnant Women

If you get sick with flu-like symptoms call your doctor right away. If needed, the doctor will prescribe an antiviral medicine that treats the flu.

Having a fever caused by flu infection or other infections early in pregnancy can lead to birth defects in an unborn child. Pregnant women who get a fever should treat their fever with Tylenol® (or store brand equivalent) and contact their doctor as soon as possible.

When to Seek Emergency Medical Care

If you have any of these signs, call 911 right away:

  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
  • Sudden dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Severe or persistent vomiting
  • High fever that is not responding to Tylenol® (or store brand equivalent)
  • Decreased or no movement of your baby

CDC Says “Take 3” Actions To Fight The Flu

Flu is a serious contagious disease that can lead to hospitalization and even death. 

CDC urges you to take the following actions to protect yourself and others from influenza (the flu): 

Step OneTake time to get a flu vaccine.Take time to get a flu vaccine like this young boy from an older female nurse.

  • CDC recommends a yearly flu vaccine as the first and most important step in protecting against flu viruses.
  • While there are many different flu viruses, a flu vaccine protects against the three viruses that research suggests will be most common. (See upcoming season’s Vaccine Virus Selection for this season’s vaccine composition.)
  • Everyone 6 months of age and older should get a flu vaccine as soon as the current season's vaccines are available.
  • Vaccination of high risk persons is especially important to decrease their risk of severe flu illness.
  • People at high risk of serious flu complications include young children, pregnant women, people with chronic health conditions like asthma, diabetes or heart and lung disease and people 65 years and older.
  • Vaccination also is important for health care workers, and other people who live with or care for high risk people to keep from spreading flu to high risk people.
  • Children younger than 6 months are at high risk of serious flu illness, but are too young to be vaccinated. People who care for them should be vaccinated instead.
Step TwoTake everyday preventive actions to stop the spread of germs.Take everyday preventive actions to stop the spread of germs like this mother teaching her young child to wash hands.

  • Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
  • If you are sick with flu-like illness, CDC recommends that you stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone except to get medical care or for other necessities. (Your fever should be gone without the use of a fever-reducing medicine.)
  • While sick, limit contact with others as much as possible to keep from infecting them.
  • Great Flu and germ Products to avoid infection! Great Flu and germ Products to avoid infection!

    Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. Germs spread this way.
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that may be contaminated with germs like the flu.
  • See Everyday Preventive Actions and Nonpharmaceutical Interventions (NPIs) for more information about actions – apart from getting vaccinated and taking medicine – that people and communities can take to help slow the spread of illnesses like influenza (flu).
Step ThreeTake flu antiviral drugs if your doctor prescribes them.Take flu antiviral drugs if your doctor prescribes them like this older woman listening to her doctor.

  • If you get the flu, antiviral drugs can treat your illness.
  • Antiviral drugs are different from antibiotics. They are prescription medicines (pills, liquid or an inhaled powder) and are not available over-the-counter.
  • Antiviral drugs can make illness milder and shorten the time you are sick. They may also prevent serious flu complications. For people with high risk factors, treatment with an antiviral drug can mean the difference between having a milder illness versus a very serious illness that could result in a hospital stay.
  • Studies show that flu antiviral drugs work best for treatment when they are started within 2 days of getting sick, but starting them later can still be helpful, especially if the sick person has a high-risk health or is very sick from the flu. Follow your doctor’s instructions for taking this drug.
  • Flu-like symptoms include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. Some people also may have vomiting and diarrhea. People may be infected with the flu, and have respiratory symptoms without a fever.

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