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Health and Wellness


In his monthly column, Dr. Kent Herbert answers your questions related to health care matters. Simply submit your question to It’s your chance to ask the doc.Question: Should I get a flu shot this year?Answer: In almost all cases, yes. Influenza, or the flu, is a seasonal illness that spreads throughout the world each winter. Each year, between 5 and 20 percent of the United States population gets the flu, and about 36,000 people die from it. Unlike the common cold, it can cause severe symptoms for several weeks and can lead to serious complications.Typical symptoms of the flu include headache, extreme tiredness, dry cough, sore throat, muscle aches and upset stomach. The flu can lead to complications such as dehydration, pneumonia, sinus infections and ear infections. These complications lead to about 200,000 hospitalizations in the United States each year. The flu is caused by a virus and cannot be treated with antibiotics. There are a few prescription medications that can be used to shorten the duration and lessen the severity of the illness, but they need to be started within the first 24 to 48 hours of the illness, and they do not cure the flu. Usually, the only treatment for the flu is to treat the symptoms and to rest. For these reasons, the key to avoiding illness from the flu is to prevent it.The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends the flu shot for anyone who wants to prevent getting the flu, but especially for certain groups of people. Their recommendations have changed this year to include more individuals. According to the CDC, children between 6 months and 18 years should get the flu shot, as should all people over the age of 50.The flu shot is safe in pregnancy, and all pregnant women, as well as women who may become pregnant during the flu season, should get the flu shot. Anyone with a chronic illness, such as asthma, heart disease or diabetes, should also get the flu shot, as they are at a higher risk for complications. Anyone who lives in a household or is in close contact with a high risk individual should be vaccinated. Finally, anyone who lives with a child under 6 months of age should get the flu shot, as these children are too young to receive the vaccination themselves.The flu vaccine is manufactured each year for the type of flu that is going around, so it needs to be given annually. It is an inactivated, or killed, vaccine, so it is impossible to get the flu from the vaccine. Some people may get some mild redness at the site of the injection, as well as a low-grade fever and muscle aching, but this goes away in a few days. There are some people who should not be vaccinated for the flu, including people who have a severe allergy to chicken eggs, those who have had a severe reaction to an influenza vaccination in the past and individuals who have developed Guillan-Barre Syndrome within six weeks of getting an influenza vaccine previously. Additionally, the flu vaccine is not approved for use in children less than 6 months of age.The flu can cause significant complications and is very preventable. It is not uncommon for a person to miss up to two weeks of school or work from the flu. The flu can sometimes be prevented by avoiding people who have it and by keeping yourself healthy, but additional measures, such as the flu shot, are usually needed. The flu shot is very safe and there are few reasons not to get it. The best time to receive it is September through November, as it takes two weeks to build immunity. Local pharmacies and doctors now have it in stock, so it is best to get it now.Dr. Kent HerbertBoard-Certified Family PhysicianFalcon Family Medicine7641 McLaughlin RoadFalcon, CO 80831(719) 494-2006(719) 494-8448

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