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Flu Shot? It's not too Late!

  • Category: General Health
  • Posted On:
  • Written By: Matt Gougler

When it comes to protecting against the seasonal flu, the timeworn proverb – "better late than never" – definitely applies. That's why the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has declared Dec. 4 through Dec. 10 National Influenza Vaccination Week. ATRIO Health Plans is supporting the CDC's effort by spreading the word that – although we're entering the holiday season – it's not too late to get the influenza vaccination.

According to the CDC, if you have not been vaccinated by the end of November, you can still greatly reduce your flu risk by getting vaccinated in December or even later. While the seasonal flu generally peaks between December and March, outbreaks can occur as late as May.

High-Risk Groups

CDC guidelines recommend the flu shot for everyone ages six-months old and above. In addition to this overarching recommendation, the CDC emphasizes how important it is for those in high-risk groups to be vaccinated. These groups include:

  • Children younger than 5, especially those ages 2 or under.
  • Pregnant women.
  • People with chronic health conditions, including asthma, diabetes, liver disorders, heart disease, or lung disease.
    • Those diagnosed with neurological conditions, seizure disorders, stroke, intellectual disabilities, moderate- to severe-developmental delays, muscular dystrophy, spinal cord injury, or blood disorders.
    • Individuals with weakened immune systems.
    • People younger than 19 who are receiving long-term aspirin therapy.
    • Anyone diagnosed with extreme obesity (a body mass index of 40 or more).
  • Adults aged 65 years and older.
  • Residents of nursing homes or other long-term-care facilities.

If someone who's not at high risk contracts the seasonal flu, the illness likely will be mild and run its course in less than two weeks. Those in high-risk groups, however, are susceptible to flu complications such as pneumonia, bronchitis, sinus infections, and ear infections. The most severe complications necessitate hospitalization, and – among that group – thousands lose their lives annually.

Dispelling Common Misconceptions

Some people refuse the influenza vaccine because they fear that receiving a flu shot will actually cause them to have the flu. This, quite simply, isn't true; flu vaccines are free of infectious elements or viruses.

The most common reactions to the flu vaccine are soreness, redness, or swelling at the site where the shot was administered. These potential side effects – which generally last less than two days – are most likely the result of the body's early immune response reacting to the presence of a foreign substance. Other potential influenza-immunization side effects are usually mild and can include a low-grade fever and body aches. Typically, such side effects usually begin shortly after receiving the shot and last from one to two days.

The bottom line is: Common reactions to the flu vaccine are considerably less severe than the symptoms caused by the actual seasonal flu. So, even though it's now December if you haven't yet been immunized, getting a flu shot should officially top your to-do list.