Talk to your doctor about flu shot

Published 10:55 pm Friday, January 17, 2020

By Chris Quilpa

Flu season has begun in the United States. Prevalent during the fall and winter months, its peak activity occurs between December and February. It can last as late as of May, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Have you had your flu shot already? If not, consider getting one today, and don’t delay, if you can.

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I just had my flu shot the mid-week of January this year, when I visited the naval hospital during my periodic primary care and follow up appointment.

The flu shot is given annually to protect us against the influenza viruses. It is administered either by injection or by inhalation.

Flu is a contagious disease that spreads around the Unites States every year, usually between October and May. Anyone can get the flu, but it is more dangerous for some people. Infants and young children, people 65 years of age and older, pregnant women, and people with certain health conditions or a weakened immune system are at greater risk of flu complications.

The single best way to prevent seasonal flu is to get vaccinated each year, but good health habits, like covering your cough and washing your hands often, can help stop the spread of germs and prevent respiratory illness like flu. There are also flu antiviral drugs that can be used to treat and prevent flu.

Following are healthy habits to help you prevent flu:

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick. When you are sick, keep your distance from others to protect them from getting sick.
  • Stay home when you are sick. If possible, stay home from work, school, and errands when you are sick. This will help prevent spreading your illness to others.
  • Cover your mouth and nose. Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue, when coughing or sneezing. It may prevent those around you from getting sick. Flu and other serious respiratory illnesses, like whooping cough and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), are spread by coughing, sneezing, or unclean hands.
  • Clean your hands. Washing your hands often will help protect you from germs. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub or sanitizers.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs are often spread when a person touches something that is contaminated with germs and then touches his or her eyes, nose, or mouth.
  • Practice other good health habits. Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces at home, work or school, especially when someone is ill. Get plenty of sleep, be physically active, manage your stress, drink plenty of fluids, and eat nutritious food.

Why get vaccinated? Pneumonia, bronchitis, sinus and ear infections are examples of flu-related complications. If you have a medical condition, such as heart disease, cancer or diabetes, flu can make it worse.

Flu can cause fever and chills, sore throat, muscle aches, fatigue, cough, headache, and runny or stuffy nose. Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in children than adults.

Each year thousands of people in the United States die from flu, and many more are hospitalized. Flu vaccine prevents millions of illnesses and flu-related visits to the doctor each year.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends everyone 6 months of age and older get vaccinated every flu season. Children 6 months through 8 years of age may need two doses during a single flu season. Everyone else needs only one dose each flu season.

It takes about two weeks for protection to develop after vaccination.

There are many flu viruses, and they are always changing. Each year a new flu vaccine is made to protect against three or four viruses that are likely to cause disease in the ongoing flu season. Even when the vaccine doesn’t exactly match these viruses, it may still provide some protection.

Talk with your doctor or health care provider about getting vaccinated. People with minor illnesses, such as cold, may be vaccinated. People who are moderately or severely ill should usually wait until they recover before getting the flu vaccine.

What are the risks of a vaccine reaction? Soreness, redness, and swelling where shot is given; fever, muscle aches, and headache can happen after the flu vaccine. There may be a very small increased risk of Guillain-Barre Syndrome after the flu shot.

How can you learn more about flu or flu vaccine? Ask your health care provider. Call your local or state health department. Contact the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention by calling 1-800-232-4636 (1-800-CDC-INFO) or visit DCD’s website at


Chris A. Quilpa, a retired U.S. Navy veteran, lives in Suffolk. Email him at