It's time to get your flu shot

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by Dr. Art Mollen, Special to azfamily.com

GMAZ interview by Scott Pasmore

Posted on September 25, 2012 at 8:29 AM

Updated Tuesday, Sep 25 at 8:40 AM

PHOENIX -- Flu symptoms are usually worse than a cold and last longer. Most flu outbreaks happen in late fall and winter. The flu is caused by influenza viruses A and B. There are different strains of the flu virus every year.

The flu causes a fever, body aches, a headache, a dry cough, and a sore or dry throat, but it can take one to two weeks to get better. It usually takes one to four days to get symptoms of the flu after you have been around someone who has the virus.

The flu can lead to a bacterial infection, such as an ear in sinus infection, or bronchitis, and, in rare cases, pneumonia.

Certain people are at higher risk of problems from the flu. They include young children, pregnant women, and older people with long-term illnesses. The doctor may do a blood test or take a sample of fluid from your nose or throat to find out what type of virus you have.

Most people can treat flu symptoms at home. Home treatment includes resting, drinking plenty of fluids, and taking medicine to lower your fever.

If you think you have the flu, your doctor may be able to give you medicine that can make the symptoms milder.

You can help prevent the flu by getting the flu vaccine every year. Three strains that are included are A/California/7/2009 (H1N1)like virus, which was included in the 2011-2012 influenza vaccine, and two new strains: an A/Victoria/361/2011 (H3N2)-like virus, and the B/Wisconsin 2010-like virus.

“It is especially important to get vaccinated this year because two of the three virus strains in this season’s influenza vaccines differ from the strains included in last year’s vaccines.”

People come up with all kinds of excuses to avoid getting the flu vaccine.

  • “The vaccine will give me the flu.”
  • “There are toxic levels of mercury in the vaccine.”

Each year, thousands of people in the U.S. die from the flu and its complications. If you’re over 6 months old, the CDC says yes, you need to get a flu vaccination at the start of every flu season.

“We have a way for people to avoid unnecessary doctor’s visits, to avoid unnecessary antibiotics, and to avoid hospitalization.”

That annual flu vaccine ritual might soon be coming to an end. Researchers have been on the hunt for a universal flu vaccine for several years, and they may be getting close.

Public health experts around the world predict which three flu strains are most likely to circulate and cause illness in the coming flu season. Sometimes the flu virus will outsmart the experts and transform itself between their prediction and the beginning of the flu season. Each vaccine protects against three different flu strains, so chances are at least one of them is circulation in any given season.

Get vaccinated as soon as the vaccine is available. Experts are never sure exactly when in the flu season the first viruses will hit, earlier is better. Get the vaccine in August or September, and it should protect you through the whole flu season, even if it lingers until March.

The flu vaccine is available in two forms: the injected vaccine and the nasal spray. Neither flu vaccine should be given to anyone who has a severe allergy to eggs or any component in the vaccine.

If you’re not a fan of shots, the nasal spray vaccine is a good alternative.

You probably know at least one person who claims he or she came down with the flu days after getting a flu vaccine. You can’t catch the flu from the vaccine because the version of the virus used in flu shots is dead.

Most side effects from the influenza vaccination are mild, like soreness at the site of the shot, a low-grade fever, or a little achiness.

You should get the flu shot if you’re pregnant.

Thimerosal is a mercury-containing preservative used in certain vaccines. All vaccines that are marketed for use in young children no longer contain thimerosal, but it is still found in some vaccines used in adults, including certain flu vaccines.


Dr. Art Mollen's practice is located at 16100 N. 71st St. in Scottsdale. For more information, call 480-656-0016 or log on to www.drartmollen.com.

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