The days are getting shorter, nights are getting colder and soon, there will be more than frost on the pumpkins.
Autumn weather means it's time to get your annual flu shot.
You have probably seen a sign at your neighborhood pharmacy, "Flu Shots Available Here," or maybe your workplace is holding a flu shot clinic.
It seems wherever we go these days, there are reminders that now is the time to get a flu shot.
"The timing and intensity of a flu season is always unpredictable and can vary from region to region of the country," said Dr. Henry Anderson, Wisconsin State Health Officer. "Really, there is no time like the present to get a flu shot."
While the vaccine has been touted for years as the best way to avoid the flu, there are plenty of misconceptions that persist that make some people wary about getting the vaccine.
"It's unfortunate that misinformation could prevent people from protecting themselves, family, friends and co-workers," Dr. Anderson said in a statement. "It's time we dispel those myths."
Here, Dr. Anderson responds to common myths.
"I got a flu shot, but I got the flu anyway."
The flu shot cannot cause influenza. If someone gets sick with the flu after getting the shot, it is likely because they were exposed to the virus before they got the shot, or were exposed during the time it takes to develop immunity after getting the shot. It is also possible to be infected with another respiratory virus (like a cold) during the flu season. The flu shot only protects against influenza, not other viruses. While the flu shot is not 100% effective, it is the best way to protect yourself and your loved ones.
"I got a flu shot last year. Besides, if everyone around me gets the shot, why should I?"
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends a yearly flu shot for just about everyone 6 months old and older. Immune protection declines over time, so an annual vaccination is needed to get the best protection. Even if you're young and healthy, you can still get the flu if everyone around you has been vaccinated. Flu viruses are unpredictable and every year puts you at risk again. Another reason to get vaccinated is to protect your close contacts, some of whom are likely to be at risk of complications from the flu, such as young children, older people, pregnant women, and those with underlying illnesses.
"I heard the flu vaccine isn't safe."
Manufacturers of flu vaccines are closely monitored by the CDC and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Flu vaccines have been administered for more than 50 years and have a very good safety record.
"I hate shots."
The minor, short-term pain of a flu shot is nothing compared to having the flu, which can make you sick for several days, send you to the hospital, or worse. However, most healthy, non-pregnant people ages 2 through 49 can opt for the nasal-spray flu vaccine, which is a great option for people who don't like shots.
"I waited too long to get a flu shot."
While the best time to get a flu shot is when they first become available, the flu season is unpredictable and can begin early in the fall and last late into spring. As long as the flu season continues, it's not too late to get your flu shot.
To get your flu shot, contact your health care provider, local public health department, tribal health clinic, or go to www.flu.wisconsin.gov to find a flu vaccination center near you.
Additionally, in Michigan, the Michigan Department of Community Health says getting a flu vaccine is easy, and it is the first and most important step you can take in protecting yourself and your loved ones from flu.
There are a number of places where you can get flu vaccine, including your local health department, vaccination clinics, doctors' offices, retail pharmacies, and some schools and workplaces.
Contact your doctor or the local health department to ask about flu vaccine availability.
For a list of flu vaccination clinics near you, visit the Flu Vaccine Finder at www.flu.gov, a federal government website managed by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services.
Besides the flu shot, there are some common sense measures we should all take to avoid viruses of all types, including:
- Wash hands often with soap and water, or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
- Stay home when sick.
- Cover a cough or sneeze with the upper sleeve. If using a tissue, throw it away after one use.
- Use your own drinking cups and straws.
- Avoid being exposed to people who are sick with flu-like symptoms.
- Eat nutritious meals, get plenty of rest, and do not smoke.
- Frequently clean commonly touched surfaces like door knobs, telephones, faucets, refrigerator door handles, etc.
The flu season in Michigan and Wisconsin generally runs from autumn to spring with peak activity around late-January or February.