Fall has arrived and so has flu season.
The flu, characterized by fever, chills, a dry cough, muscle aches and extreme fatigue, kills approximately 36,000 people in the United States annually.
"The best protection against the flu is to get vaccinated," said Dr. Antonio Ramos, a physician with Park Plaza Hospital and Medical Center. "I would encourage everyone, especially children between the ages of 6 months and 4 years, the elderly and those with compromised immune systems, to get a flu shot."
Some people are leery of getting a flu shot because they believe that the vaccination will give them the flu, added Ramos.
"This simply isn't true. You may develop flu-like symptoms, such as a low-grade fever and muscle aches, but will not get the flu from getting the flu shot."
There are two types of vaccines: a "flu shot," an inactivated strain of influenza injected by a needle and a nasal-spray flu vaccine -- a vaccine made with live, weakened flu viruses. The nasal-spray vaccine (FluMist®) is recommended for healthy children and adults (ages 2 to 49). It is not recommended for women who are pregnant.
"October and November are the best times to get a flu shot," said Ramos. "But if you choose to wait until December or January, the vaccination will still be effective."
In addition to getting a flu shot, Ramos provides the following tips for staying healthy this winter:
- Wash hands before eating, touching your eyes, nose or mouth
- Wash hands after touching anyone who has sneezed, is coughing or has a runny nose
- Wash hands after using the restroom
- Do not share towels, lipsticks, toys, eating utensils, drinking glasses or anything else that might be contaminated with respiratory germs