How to stay healthy this flu season

Gray Hughes

With the official start to winter almost here, it’s time to start thinking about what can be done to stay healthy this flu season.

The Hill City Prevailer News sat down with Dr. Terry Graber, family practice physician in the Hill City Regional Health Medical Clinic to learn more about what can be done to remain healthy.

When doctors discuss the flu, they are talking about influenza, Graber said.

“The thing about it is: flu is not the same as a stomachache or diarrhea,” he added. “A lot of people use stomach flu for that, but that’s not what we are talking about when we talk about the flu shot and that kind of thing. It’s that severe respiratory illness that has a pretty sudden onset. ...The reason why we focus a lot on preventing flu and get flu shots and so forth is to prevent the respiratory complications.”

What doctors are hoping for with proper flu prevention is to keep people from missing school and work, Graber said.

Flu is spread person-to-person through what one coughs out such as sputum and respiratory droplets that gets on one’s hands and is spread by touching things.

There is evidence, Graber said, that suggests if public surfaces are cleaned the spread of flu can be reduced.

“When we think about prevention, a lot of our prevention strategies come down to the contact: hand washing, covering the mouth, keeping yourself separate when you have a fever,” he added. “It is always sort of a challenge when you have a fever and you feel like you need to do something so you go out into public or go to school, anyways, and it’s asking to spread the germ around. Confining yourself and contact isolation are big issues.”

Graber said statistics show the best way to prevent the spread of flu is getting a flu shot.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) says everyone above 6 months in age can get a flu shot with “virtually no exceptions,” Dr. Graber said.

The thought there, he added, is to prevent the spread of the disease.

Because of that, he said, the flu shot is recommended for most ages.

Those who might get hives or anaphylaxes from ingesting egg or egg products should talk to their doctor about getting a non-egg produced flu shot; however, most of the modern manufacturing vaccines don’t have egg antigen in them, Graber said.

“There is no excuse not to get a flu shot,” he said.

The main complaint he hears regarding the flu shot from patients, though, does not relate to eggs. Rather, it relates to the way people say the flu shot makes them feel.

Graber says he hears from patients that the flu shot gave them the flu. What that feeling really is, though, he explained, is the body creating antibodies that will protect from the flu.

One can get the flu shot at any time, Graber said, but it is best to get it in the months of November or December to ensure it is fully effective before flu season ramps up in February.

Another complaint Graber hears about the flu shot is that it is only 50 percent effective in one year.

“The thing I try to tell people is that next year’s flu shot will have a different combination of antigens in it than this year’s flu shot and the more shots you get year-by-year the more different antigens we get immunized against, so you actually accumulate immunity year after year,” he said. Serial flu shots work better at preventing complications, so there is value to getting it every year.”

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