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Physicians Say It's Not Too Late to Have a Flu Shot

(1/17/2014)   Many people exhibit signs of congestion, coughing, body aches, fatigue and fever each flu season. Physicians would like to stress that it is not too late to have a flu shot.  A simple flu shot can prevent the potential dangers, stress and discomfort associated with the flu virus.

"The flu is a very contagious virus that typically enters the body through the mouth, nose or eyes," said Jose Hernandez, family medicine physician with Loris Family Health Center. "If a person who is infected coughs or sneezes, the virus can then become airborne, spreading quickly to those in close proximity to them."

The common symptoms of the flu include fever (usually high), headache, muscle aches, chills, dry cough, and extreme tiredness. Your risk of contracting flu will be reduced by doing the following:

Get the flu vaccine to increase protection against hospitalization and death.  See your medical provider within the first 48 hours of symptoms.  Flu is a respiratory condition. What is commonly called the stomach flu is not actually flu, but another illness.Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly for at least 20 seconds or use an alcohol based hand sanitizer.Stay home when sick, if possible, and limit your contact with sick people. Please do not visit other hospitalized family or friends. 

Flu season usually runs from October through May, often peaking in the United States during January or February. Dr. Hernandez says that a flu shot is the best way to avoid getting the flu, and an important measure to protect your friends and family members too. This year's vaccine includes protection against the H1N1 virus, influenza A and influenza B virus.

Dr. Hernandez adds that there are several misconceptions about the flu. "The flu vaccine does not put you at risk of getting the flu, it prevents it," said Dr. Hernandez. "Getting a flu shot may cause temporary, minor side effects, the most common being stiffness or soreness at the injection site. Since the vaccine also stimulates the body's immune system, you may feel under the weather for a couple of days. To increase your body's chances of building up antibody against the virus get plenty of rest, drink fluids and maintain a healthy diet."

According to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it takes two weeks for the body to build antibodies against the flu, which is why physicians say it is important to get vaccinated early in the season. It is recommended that everyone over the age of six months receive the flu vaccine.

People who have had an allergic reaction to the vaccine in the past and those who suffer from egg allergies should not seek flu shots and should speak with a healthcare provider for an alternative method of protection. The vaccine is not approved for children younger than six months of age.

"If you come down with the flu, antiviral drugs are highly effective if taken within 48 hours of your first flu symptoms. They help reduce the amount of time you are sick and make you less contagious to others," Dr. Hernandez said. "Remember that practicing good hand hygiene is the most important way to avoid the flu virus. Cover your mouth and nose at your elbow when you cough or sneeze to help avoid spreading the virus to others."

Loris Family Health Center is located at 3109 Casey Street, Suite A, in Loris. Office hours are Monday – Thursday 8:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. and 1:30 - 4:30 p.m., Friday 8:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. and Saturday 9:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m. for urgent care needs. They can be reached by calling (843) 756-9292.

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