SLEEPY HOLLOW, N.Y. -- As sniffles and sneezes become more common, it's time to think about the season's most unwanted guest: the flu. According to the experts at Phelps Hospital, while getting a flu shot doesn't guarantee an illness-free winter, it can go a long way in keeping you healthy.
"We recommend the flu shot for all children and adults, especially those who are very young or older," said Dr. Lauren Maltese, an internal medicine physician with Phelps. Most flu-related deaths occur with people ages 65 and older, but it's important to receive a vaccination even if the illness isn't life-threatening to you. "Even if you're outside of the dangerous age range, the shot prevents you from passing the flu along to other older members of the community," she said.
When it comes to getting vaccinated, patients can choose between a shot and a nasal spray. However, experts strongly suggest opting for the shot method. "This year, the CDC does not recommend the nasal spray, as it was not effective last year," said Maltese. "While strains of flu and the effectiveness of the flu vaccine vary every year, the vaccine was considered successful last year, and the CDC expects this year's vaccine to be effective as well."
A common worry of those receiving the flu vaccine is the fear that the vaccine itself will make them sick. That worry, Maltese explained, isn't valid. "It's a killed virus in the vaccine, so you cannot actually get the flu from it," said Maltese. The cough and sneezing you may feel after getting the shot? That's the body doing its normal job. "What you can feel is your body revving up its immune system, which can cause symptoms like a runny nose," she said.
Sometimes even after getting the flu shot, the virus can prevail. If that's the case, Maltese recommends a combination of common sense and pharmaceuticals. "If you feel flu-like symptoms, call a doctor," said Maltese. "They're usually able to provide a prescription to decrease the duration of symptoms." It's also important to stay isolated and avoid spreading the airborne illness. "I tell people to avoid contact, practice lots of hand washing, and cover coughs and sneezes," she said. "It's the simple things."
To learn more about this year's flu and track its activity across the United States, click here.