One of the concerns seniors have is staying healthy during flu season. Retirement homes all over the country, even in warm areas like San Antonio, have experienced a significant flu epidemic this year.
What is the flu?
The flu is a contagious respiratory illness that can cause mild to severe illnesses, sometimes resulting in hospitalization or even death. Flu symptoms include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue, vomiting or diarrhea. Some people are more likely to develop severe illness from flu, especially people 65 years and older because as we age, our immune defenses become weaker. Flu vaccines protect us against the flu.
How do Flu vaccines work?
Flu vaccines cause antibodies to develop in the body. These antibodies protect against infection with the viruses that are in the vaccine.
Myths about the flu shot
Myth #1. I had a flu vaccine last year, so I don’t need one now.
Fact. You need a flu vaccine every year because your body builds up an immune response to the vaccine over time, and because the flu virus is constantly changing.
Myth #2. The flu vaccine will protect me as soon as I take it.
Fact. It takes about two weeks after vaccination for antibodies to develop in the body and provide protection against the influenza virus infection.
Myth #3. I will not get the flu if I got the flu vaccine this year.
Fact. There is still a possibility you could get the flu even if you got vaccinated. The ability of the flu vaccine to protect a person depends on various factors, including the age and health status of the patient, and the similarity between the viruses used to make the vaccine. Flu vaccination may make your illness milder if you do get sick.
Myth #4. The flu vaccine will give me the flu.
Fact. A flu vaccine cannot cause the flu illness. Flu vaccines are made with viruses that have been inactivated and therefore are not infectious. The viruses cannot infect the lungs or other areas where warmer temperatures exist. While a flu vaccine cannot give you flu illness, different side effects may be associated with getting a flu shot or a nasal spray flu vaccine. Some minor side effects that may occur are soreness, or swelling where the shot was given, a low-grade fever, or body aches.
Always check with your doctor if you have any questions and be sure to mention any allergies you have. Practice good hygiene habits and always avoid people who are sick.
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