"It's fall. It's time to get the flu shot, not the flu." says Carla Bush, a family and consumer sciences agent with University of Tennessee Extension in Cannon County. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that everyone 6 months of age and older get vaccinated every year to prevent getting the flu.
"Avoiding the flu is important, not only to protect your health but also that of family members," says UT Extension Family and Consumer Sciences health specialist Bobbi Clarke. "The flu is a highly contagious respiratory disease caused by influenza viruses and can make you feel miserable. Fever, cough, shaking chills, body aches and extreme weakness are common symptoms. So getting a flu shot is wise thing to do."
While everyone should get the flu shot, there are groups who need this vaccine to avoid developing serious complications from the flu. These include adults age 65 and older, young children under 5 years of age, pregnant women and people with certain health conditions, such as asthma, diabetes or heart disease, and persons who live in facilities like nursing homes.
The experts recommend that you get vaccinated as soon as the vaccine becomes available in your community. Flu season can begin as early as October and last as late as May. Allow about two weeks after vaccination for antibodies to develop and provide protection.
Clarke says you should consult your doctor before getting the shot if you have:
- A serious allergic reaction to eggs or a previous dose of the flu vaccine.
- A history of Guillain-Barre Syndrome.
- An illness with a fever.
The influenza vaccine is not approved for use in children younger than 6 months of age. Contact your insurance carrier to find out if the shot is covered. If you are a beneficiary of Medicare, Part B will pay for the shot when given at approved locations.
The experts also remind everyone that the best ways to avoid spreading germs during the flu season include:
- Covering your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze.
- Washing your hands often with soap and water.
- Avoiding touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
- Avoiding close contact with sick people.
- Staying at home when you are sick.
UT Extension provides a gateway to the University of Tennessee as the outreach unit of the Institute of Agriculture. With an office in every Tennessee county, UT Extension delivers educational programs and research-based information to citizens throughout the state. In cooperation with Tennessee State University, UT Extension works with farmers, families, youth and communities to improve lives by addressing problems and issue at the local, state and national levels.
Carla Y. Bush, MVTE
UT Extension, Cannon County
Family and Consumer Sciences
614 Lehman Street
Woodbury, TN 37190