The leaves are beginning to change color, the stores are filled with Halloween decorations, and temperatures are finally starting to dip. Fall has arrived in Maryland and that means it’s also the beginning of flu season.
Influenza is a serious disease that can lead to hospitalization and sometimes even death. The illness causes missed work and school days. In 2010, Americans missed 100 million workdays due to flu-related illness, resulting in more than $10 billion in costs to companies’ bottom lines.
The best way to protect yourself and reduce your chances of getting the flu this year is to get a flu vaccine. According to the Centers for Disease Control, everyone who is at least six months of age should get a flu vaccine. It is increasingly important to get vaccinated for people who have certain medical conditions such as asthma, diabetes or chronic lung disease, pregnant women, young children under five and people 65 and older.
Despite the evidence and recommendations, thousands of Marylanders won’t get vaccinated this year. Not only does that put your own personal health and well-being at risk, but it increases the chances of your family, friends, co-workers and neighbors getting sick too. Consider the following:
Getting the shot will not give you the flu
According to the CDC, the flu shot vaccine is made with either inactivated flu viruses (and therefore not infectious) or with no flu vaccine viruses at all. Many people report experiencing flu-like symptoms after getting the vaccine, such as muscle pain or weakness, but these symptoms go away after a day or two, and are much less severe than the actual flu.
Young, healthy people get the flu, too
Influenza does not discriminate against age or healthy habits. Just because you’re young or don’t typically get sick doesn’t mean you can’t catch the flu. According to the CDC, people who have the flu can spread it to others from as far as six feet away. You can also catch the flu from someone who has yet to exhibit any signs or symptoms of being sick.
The flu shot is not expensive
In most cases, the cost of a flu shot is covered by your health insurance plan, whether you buy health insurance on your own or are covered through your employer, through Medicare or Medicaid. More employers are now offering free onsite flu shot clinics at the office. If you get the flu, the cost of treating it and the potential for missed days of work or school far exceed the cost of the vaccination.
Getting the flu shot vaccine is fast, easy and convenient
Getting a flu shot takes no more than five minutes. Most neighborhood pharmacies even offer walk-in options, so you don’t need to make an appointment. If you are unemployed or your employer doesn’t offer flu shots, you can go to your primary care doctor or nearby wellness clinic, most retail pharmacies or contracted flu shot providers. To find a list of flu shot providers near you, visit http://dhmh.maryland.gov/flumd/SitePages/getvaccinated.aspx.
Make your and your family’s health a priority this year by getting a flu shot. If you do, you’ll likely be able to enjoy that trick-or-treating a little more.
Catherine E. Palmier, M.D. is the chief medical officer of the northeast and southeast regions for United Healthcare.