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Sept. 20, 2012

HealthChips: Fight the flu

by Sarika Ramaswamy, Staff Writer
HealthChips is a weekly blog focusing on healthy living and wellness. Come back next Thursday for the next edition of HealthChips.

As fall arrives, it brings crisp air, falling leaves, sweater weather and germs. As flu season arrives, school is one of the best breeders for the virus. While minimizing contact with congested friends and slathering on the hand sanitizer are important preemptive measures, getting vaccinated is the best way to fight the flu.

You can get vaccinated at local pharmacies, such as CVS. Courtesy of Florida Times-Union
You can get vaccinated at local pharmacies, such as CVS.
While the tips your parents share to avoid the common cold, ("Wash those hands with soap and water!" "Get enough sleep!"), help increase your resistance to the virus, getting vaccinated is much more effective in protecting your body from the flu. Flu viruses are always changing, so new viruses appear every year. Every year, scientists create new vaccines to counter the new flu strands, protecting you against a specific viral infection.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention advises an annual vaccination for everyone older than six months. This is especially crucial if you or someone you live with is at a high risk of infections. People with weakened immune systems, asthma, diabetes, and other afflictions that increase the chances of developing pneumonia are at high risk. Even people over the age of 50, like many of our parents and relatives, are high risk when it comes to the flu.

The flu could start making rounds as early as October. After receiving the vaccination, it takes about two weeks for the body to develop antibodies to fight off the flu. So, it is important to get vaccinated as soon as possible. A number of institutions offer the flu shot, including doctors- offices and clinics- and pharmacies, such as CVS.

If you are squeamish about needles, FluMist is an alternative to the shot. This option administers a weakened live virus through nasal spray- instead of being jabbed in the arm with a needle, you receive the vaccine through a squirt up the nose. Last year, MCPS offered a school-sponsored FluMist vaccination clinic for students. While less painful, FluMist is not for everyone. Because, in contrast to the flu shot, FluMist administers a live virus, people who have or live with others who have weakened immune systems should not opt for this alternative.
The FluMist is a less painful alternative to the flu shot. Courtesy of Chicago Tribune
The FluMist is a less painful alternative to the flu shot.


Getting vaccinated is no guarantee that you will not get sick this fall. However, it increases your body's resistance to the flu, which is useful when walking around a school with thousands of students carrying germs. Getting vaccinated not only helps you, but also protects your friends and family. Fight the flu and bring on fall!

For more information about staying flu-free this season, visit the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.



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