By the Cleveland Clinic
We find ways to celebrate all sorts of things. For example, did you know we celebrate National Handwashing Awareness Week this month followed by Gluten-Free Baking Week in late December?
And don’t forget all the special days coming up: National Ugly Christmas Sweater Day is Dec. 14 followed by Answer The Telephone Like Buddy The Elf Day on Dec. 18.
The first week of December is National Influenza Vaccination Week, but there’s still plenty of time to celebrate – if a shot in the arm is your idea of a celebration, according to the medical experts at the Cleveland Clinic.
Susan Rehm, M.D., an infectious disease expert at Cleveland Clinic, said it’s wise for people to get the vaccine whenever they can because there really is no way to know for sure just how bad of a flu season it will be.
“Influenza is certainly not a minor illness by any stretch of the imagination,” she says. “We don’t know whether the flu season will be good or bad this year. We do know that the flu is predictably unpredictable. We don’t know exactly when it’s going to hit, we don’t know how hard it’s going to be.”
Earlier this year, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that the flu was responsible for as many as 80,000 deaths last winter.
The CDC recommends that everyone six months and older receive a flu vaccine.
Dr. Rehm says a common myth surrounding flu vaccines is that a flu shot will cause a person to get the flu – but she says this simply isn’t true.
“You can’t get the flu from the flu vaccine – that’s really the number one myth that’s still out there,” says Dr. Rehm. “Sometimes people feel a little achy for a day or two afterward; some people may even have a low-grade fever – but that’s not influenza – that’s the body making antibodies, getting strong, and getting ready to fight off the flu.”
Dr. Rehm says getting the flu vaccine serves a dual purpose – protecting yourself, and others in the community – especially those who are vulnerable from suffering flu complications.
“Getting influenza vaccine is the best thing you can do to protect yourself against influenza,” says Dr. Rehm. “And perhaps, more importantly in some settings, is the fact that the more people who get vaccinated, the less flu spreads around.”
For those who haven’t already received a flu shot, Dr. Rehm said now is a good time to get one, because it takes the body up to four weeks to develop its immune response.
She says flu activity typically begins to peak in January, which is just around the corner.