Aching body. Persistent cough and dripping nose. Irritating, itchy throat. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, these are all tell-tale signs of influenza, a respiratory illness that can, at times, lead to death. To help build awareness during National Influenza Vaccination Week – Dec. 7-13 – physicians at Baylor Emergency Medical Centers are weighing in on common myths about the vaccination, and providing information on ways to decrease risk of infection.
“Hundreds of thousands of Americans are hospitalized each year because of complications with the illness. There are so many misconceptions about the flu,” said Dr. Kevin Thornton, medical director at Baylor Emergency Medical Centers’ Rockwall location. “This is why it’s important to educate our family and friends about vaccinations, to prevent the unnecessary spread of a potentially life-threatening condition.”
Influenza, otherwise known as the flu, is an extremely contagious respiratory illness caused by a virus that attacks the lungs, nose and throat. While it often produces symptoms similar to a cold, the flu can be differentiated by the sudden onset of body aches, fatigue, high fever and weakness that are all indicative of a more serious illness.
Frequent hand washing and avoiding contact with anyone showing symptoms of the flu can decrease risk of infection; however, the best way to prevent the spread of influenza is to get vaccinated every season, which peaks between late December and early March. Here are a few misconceptions about flu vaccinations:
- A flu shot can NOT give you the flu – vaccinations are not created with active flu viruses.
- Even if you don’t feel sick, you can still spread the flu – it’s highly contagious, and some people are more susceptible to developing serious complications from the virus than others.
- Antibiotics cannot be used as a substitute for the vaccine – these only treat bacterial illnesses, and are not effective against viruses like influenza.
- Almost everyone, unless otherwise medically determined, above the age of six months should get the flu vaccine annually – flu vaccines are altered to protect against different strains of the virus each year, and a person’s immune protection can also decline over time.
How do you know when it’s time to visit a doctor?
Severe conditions that require immediate medical attention are best treated at emergency rooms. These facilities are open 24/7, and are equipped to handle a wide range of medical complaints. If your condition isn’t severe but needs to be taken care of, urgent care centers are usually the better option.
“Typically, the patients who visit our hospital have been experiencing severe flu-like symptoms for an extended period of time, sometimes weeks. Shortness of breath, severe chest pain or headache and vomiting indicate an emergency medical situation,” said Dr. Thomas Black, regional medical director at Baylor Emergency Medical Centers.
Last month, Baylor Emergency Medical Centers staff administered more than 1,000 free flu shots as part of its commitment to health in the community.
“Coming down with the flu is a miserable experience,” said Black. “We strongly encourage people of all ages to get vaccinated each year.”
For more information on services offered at Baylor Emergency Medical Centers, visit bayloremc.com.