What you need to know about the flu vaccine

As summer ends and fall approaches, we begin to hear a lot about the seasonal flu and the importance of getting vaccinated. Influenza, also known as “the flu,” is a contagious respiratory disease caused by the influenza virus, which affects the nose, throat and lungs.

Every year in the United States more than 200,000 people are hospitalized because of the flu, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Several important steps can be taken to help prevent contracting and spreading the virus.

Individuals who are at high risk for developing flu-related complications should exercise particular caution during flu season.

Children under age five, adults 65 and older, pregnant women, people with chronic medical conditions and people who live in nursing homes or long-term care facilities are especially susceptible to complications related to flu.

The best way to prevent getting the flu and spreading it to others is to get a vaccine.

It’s best to get vaccinated as early as possible in the season as it takes about two weeks for antibodies to develop after vaccination.

For the 2016-2017 season, the CDC recommend using an injectable influenza vaccine. Two types of injectable vaccines will be available this flu season:

– Trivalent flu vaccine: A three-component vaccination injected into the muscle of the arm. There are several trivalent shots that are appropriate for people 18 and older. High-dose trivalent shots are recommended for people over 65.

– Quadrivalent flu vaccine: A four-component vaccination approved for use in different age groups. The intradermal quadrivalent flu shot uses a smaller needle and is injected into the skin instead of the muscle.

Besides vaccination, there are several other things you can do to minimize the risk of catching the virus and spreading it to others.

Most viruses spread through direct contact, so it is extremely important to wash your hands regularly in warm, soapy water and avoid contact with face, mouth and eyes.

When sneezing, always use a clean tissue and discard used ones, and if a tissue is not available, sneeze away from others.

Using natural methods to help prevent to the flu can also be effective. Staying hydrated and drinking plenty of fluids can help flush out the body.

Getting fresh air can also help keep the body hydrated, especially during the cold months when central heat tends to dry out the skin.

Exercising regularly and eating a diet high in vegetables and fruits can help increase blood flow and stimulate the body’s natural virus-killing cells.

The seasonal flu virus changes every season, so it is important to stay current with your vaccinations each year.

Practicing good cleanliness habits and healthy routines can also help keep you and your loved ones healthy throughout flu season and all year long.

Flu vaccines are available from Haven Medical Center. For information about scheduling a vaccination, please call 570-748-0590.

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Dr. Dennis Probst, is board certified in Family Practice and is accepting new patients at Haven Medical Center, 208 E. Church St., 570-748-0590.

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