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5 Things to Know About the Flu Shot

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close up of person in yellow shirt with a pink bandage on upper arm from flu shot

You may have noticed it while you’re at the store or work or anywhere else while you’re out and about – sneezes, coughs, runny noses. While these symptoms are often due to colds or allergies, it’s the time of year when the flu also starts to rear its ugly head. Influenza, or the “flu,” usually starts to occur in October and usually ends in May. So now is the best time to get your annual flu shot. The vaccine takes about two weeks to take effect, so having one soon will protect you for most of the flu season.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends an annual flu shot for everyone six months of age and older. Here are five things to know about the flu shot:

1. You can get the shot even if you have an egg allergy

People with egg allergies no longer need to be observed for an allergic reaction for 30 minutes after receiving a flu vaccine. People with a history of egg allergy of any severity should receive any licensed, recommended, and age-appropriate influenza vaccine.  Those who have a history of severe allergic reaction to egg (i.e., any symptom other than hives) should be vaccinated under the supervision of a health care provider who is able to recognize and manage severe allergic conditions.

2. Access to getting a flu shot is easier than ever, but not every location is equal

There are many places to get the flu shot. “This is great news, because we want more people to get the flu shot to help keep our entire area healthier,” said Lakes Regional Healthcare Director of Population and Public Health Brandon Rohrig.  “But when you get the flu shot, and really any other type of vaccine for that matter, at Dickinson County Public Health, we provide that information to the Immunization Registry Information System (IRIS), which is operated by the Iowa Department of Public Health. Unfortunately not all locations do that. So later when you need to provide immunization records for school or volunteering or work, the information you receive may not be very accurate depending on where you received your immunizations.”

Walk-in flu clinics are held at Dickinson County Public Health every Monday in October from 2:00 pm until 5:30 pm. If you’re unable to attend the walk-in clinic, you can schedule an appointment by calling 712-336-2682. Dickinson County Public Health is located at Lakes Regional Healthcare just inside the west entrance off Highway 71. The cost per vaccination at Dickinson County Public Health is $30. Medicare B eligible patients must bring their Medicare cards with them. Also, if you do not have the resources through insurance or other means to pay for the flu shot, Dickinson County Public Health may be able to help you.

3. You really cannot get the flu from getting the flu shot.

Flu vaccines given with a needle are currently made in two ways, according to the CDC: the vaccine is made either with a) flu vaccine viruses that have been ‘inactivated’ and are therefore not infectious, or b) with no flu vaccine viruses at all (for a type of vaccine called recombinant influenza vaccine). The most common side effects from the flu shot are soreness, redness, tenderness or swelling where the shot was given. Low-grade fever, headache and muscle aches also may occur, but this does not mean you have the flu. In randomized, blinded studies, where some people get inactivated flu shots and others get salt-water shots, the only differences in symptoms were increased soreness in the arm and redness at the injection site among people who got the flu shot. There were no differences in terms of body aches, fever, cough, runny nose or sore throat.

Also, getting a flu shot will not completely prevent you from getting the flu. There are many types of flu viruses floating around out there. Each year the CDC analyzes them and makes educated predictions on which ones will be the most common and a vaccine is made including those viruses. If you get exposed to a flu virus the flu shot is not created for, you may still get that specific flu virus.

4. Yes, the flu is a serious illness

The flu is a respiratory illness that most often causes fever, headache, extreme tiredness, muscle pain, dry coughing, sore throat, and runny nose. In children, diarrhea sometimes accompanies the respiratory symptoms. For some, the symptoms persist and get worse, and can lead to hospitalization and even death. It can be especially serious among young children, older adults, and people with certain chronic health conditions, such as asthma, heart disease or diabetes. In fact, the seriousness of the flu is demonstrated in CDC reports that the flu has resulted in between 12,000 and 56,000 deaths each year since 2010.

5. It’s pretty easy to get the flu

The flu virus is spread when people who are ill cough or sneeze without covering their mouths and noses. Others get sick when they breathe in the air containing the flu virus. You can also get the flu by touching a surface or object (like a door handle) that has been touched by someone with the flu (who has perhaps coughed into their hand), and then touching your own mouth, eyes, or nose. When you consider how many people go to the store, school sporting events, and elsewhere, there’s a high potential for you to breath in the virus coughed or sneezed out or touch it on items handled by those with the flu. They’re not pretty thoughts, but unfortunately they’re common occurrences, which is why getting a flu shot is so important.

For more information about the influenza vaccine, visit https://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/season/flu-season-2018-2019.htm

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