Get a flu shot for the holidays

Friday, December 9, 2011

The great thing about the holidays is getting together with family and friends.

The bad thing about the holidays is getting together with family and friends -- and passing around the flu.

Some researchers say that's why influenza -- the "real" flu, not stomach flu -- is more prevalent in winter; more of us are indoors, in close contact with each other.

Others contend the immune system is less active in the winter months; still others say flu spreads in the winter because cold weather makes the virus more stable.

Whatever the reason, winter season is flu season, and getting vaccinated can not only protect you, but the friends and loved ones you are likely to be around over the holidays.

That's why Dec. 4-10 is National Influenza Vaccination Week, a week when we're planning our Christmas and New Years holidays, yet early enough for flu shots to be at least partially effective before the big days.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommends flu vaccine for all individuals older than six months of age, particularly high-risk people including:

* Children age 6 months to 19 years;

* Pregnant women;

* People 50 years old or older;

* People of any age with chronic health problems;

* People who live in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities;

* Health care workers;

* Caregivers or people who live with a person at high risk for complications from the flu; and

* Out-of-home caregivers of or people who live with children less than 6 months old.

The CDC recommends a new flu vaccination each season for optimal protection. Healthy, non-pregnant people age 2-49 years old can be vaccinated with either the flu shot or nasal vaccine spray. Children younger than 9, who did not receive a flu vaccination last flu season, should receive a second dose four or more weeks after their first vaccination.

Of course, getting a flu shot doesn't relieve you of taking other precautions, such as washing hands often with soap and water, avoiding touching your eyes, nose or mouth and staying home from work or school when sick.

For more information, contact the Southwest Nebraska Public Health Department (308) 345-4223 or visit www.swhealthdept.com or Facebook page, the Red Willow County Health Department at (308) 345-1794, redwillowhealth.com, e-mail rwchealth@mccooknet.com, 1400 W. Fifth, or contact your health provider.

What is the "real" flu? The flufacts.com website uses an easy acronym: F.A.C.T.S. -- Fever, Aches, Chills, Tiredness, Sudden onset. Throw in coughing, sneezing and a sore throat, and you probably should contact your healthcare provider for your treatment options.

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