Within weeks, the holidays will be upon us. And since it takes about two weeks to build immunity after a flu shot, it's better to get vaccinated now, before the flu season really gets under way. This is especially true for people who are at higher risk of complications, including pregnant women, adults 65 years of age and older, and children under the age of five.
Influenza or "flu" is a respiratory infection that can cause serious complications. Symptoms include fever, coughing, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, headaches and fatigue. Each year 5-20 percent of the U.S. population gets the flu, and as many as 200,000 people are hospitalized for flu-related complications. On average, about 20,000 people in the U.S. die annually from influenza.
Some may be concerned that the flu vaccine can make you sick, but the good news is that flu shots have a strong safety track record. Most people tolerate the vaccine very well, with no complications or just very mild side effects that could include soreness, redness, or swelling at the injection site, a low-grade fever, or aches. If these effects occur, they begin soon after the shot is administered and usually last one to two days.
This article first appeared in the November 2014 edition of the HealthPerks newsletter.