By Leslie Vandever
The flu virus is around throughout the year, but when temperatures are warm it’s sluggish and slow, unable to replicate quickly or easily. As the seasons turn to autumn and winter, the air becomes colder and the humidity levels lower. Cooler air energizes and activates the flu virus. By early to mid-winter—the height of the flu season—it’s thriving.
When the weather is cold, most people stay indoors. They don’t get lot of fresh air and exercise during the winter, which increases their vulnerability to wayward cold and flu viruses. And, since people spend more time in close proximity to others, the virus spreads easily from one person to the next.
In the U.S., flu season generally runs from December to February, but it can start as early as October and last as late as May. Distribution of the 2014-2015 Flu Vaccine began in August and will continue through October.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, everyone, from the age of six months old, should get an annual flu shot. Here’s why: influenza is a serious illness that can lead to hospitalization or even death. Anyone can catch it—even the healthiest people among us can—and can become very sick. The more people who are vaccinated, the fewer people there are who can get it and spread the disease. About 90 percent of the deaths from influenza occur in people who are 65 years old or older.
Flu complications, such as pneumonia, bronchitis, and sinus and ear infections, account for most of the serious flu-related illness each season. And the flu can make chronic health problems worse, too. Someone with asthma or congestive heart failure may have more attacks or worse symptoms triggered by the flu.
Some people are at greater risk from the flu than others. These include:
- small children
- people older than 50
- people with compromised immune systems or those who are immunosuppressed
- people with diabetes mellitus
- people with chronic pulmonary disease (including asthma)
- people with cardiovascular disease (except hypertension)
- people with renal, hepatic, neurologic, hematologic, or metabolic disorders
- people who are morbidly obese
- health care personnel
- caregivers for children or the elderly
It takes the body two weeks to gain protection from the viruses in the flu vaccine. During those two weeks you’re still vulnerable to the particular viruses in the vaccine. Also, your annual flu shot can’t protect you from all types of flu virus, just the specific ones that are in it.
You can’t get the flu from a flu shot. Most flu vaccines have “inactivated” viruses in them that are not infective; some don’t have flu viruses in them at all. After receiving the vaccine, some people experience soreness at the injection site that can last a couple of days.
Flu symptoms include fever, cough, sore throat, a runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headaches, fatigue, and perhaps vomiting and diarrhea, though those symptoms are more common in children than adults.
Talk to your health care provider about getting a flu vaccine or check with your local county health department for reduced-price vaccination schedules. Better safe than sorry. For more information about this or other health subjects, visit Healthline.
Leslie Vandever is a professional journalist and freelance writer with more than 25 years of experience. She lives in the foothills of Northern California.References:
- 2014-2015 Flu Season. (2014, August 20) Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved on September 19, 2014 from http://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/season/index.htm
- Get Set For Winter Illness Season. (2014, May 30) S. Food and Drug Administration. Retrieved on September 19, 2014 from http://www.fda.gov/forconsumers/consumerupdates/ucm092805.htm