LEWIS CENTER, Ohio (WCMH) — With flu season officially underway, doctors say it’s not too late to get a flu shot.
“We’ve given flu shots into January, February, until we run out,” said Dr. David Groen, a family medicine physician for Mount Carmel Health.
Dr. Groen said that as of late November, flu activity was sporadic. Still, he urged everyone to get a flu shot.
“It takes about two weeks for the immunity to build up after you get the shot, and if it’s starting to circulate now, then you’ve still got two weeks to catch up to that,” Groen said.
He noted that if you do get the flu after having had a shot earlier in the season, you’ll likely have it for fewer days and recover more quickly.
In addition to the flu shot, there are steps everyone can take to stay healthy.
“Good nutrition, good rest, good hydration, get some exercise,” Dr. Groen said, adding that reducing stress is also helpful if possible.
He emphasized the importance of handwashing.
“If you’ve got flu virus on your hands — you just touched a doorknob, someone sneezed in their hands and then goes and grabs a doorknob, and now you’ve got it on your hands — and you go rub your eye, now that flu virus is in you,” Groen said.
While it is tough to predict how severe this year’s flu season could be, researchers use what happens in places such as Australia as a clue.
“Good predictors tend to be what has happened in the rest of the world in their winter times,” Groen said.
Those, in turn, help determine what strains of the virus make it into our vaccines in the U.S.
Dr. Groen debunked the myth that people who get the flu shot immediately get the flu, saying that any sickness people experience could either be a cold they picked up around the time of the shot or an immune response that causes them to get achy and feel unwell, though not nearly to the degree they would if they had the flu.
There are some key differences between a cold and the flu. A cold comes on gradually, and generally, if there is a fever, it is low. Symptoms may include sneezing, coughing, a runny nose and a sore throat. The flu, in contrast, comes on suddenly, with fever, chills, aches and a harsh cough.