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It's Flu Shot Season

WEB-EXCLUSIVE: Nobody likes needles, but they may be a necessary evil during flu season.

Photo by Mark Rightmire/The Orange County Register

If you're like me, you're in that group of people who "don't do needles." And you're probably trying to ignore the fact that it's time for your yearly flu shot. The idea of being punctured by that cold, stinging needle sounds far from appealing to most of us, but Arlene Porcell-Pharr from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the unpleasant vaccination is well worth a winter free of the flu. Getting your flu shot over with early and avoiding germ zones all season long can help keep you healthy. Since the flu virus is constantly changing, Porcell-Pharr says it's important to keep yourself protected from evolving strands of the virus.

Although the age requirements for getting the vaccination vary by county and state, CDC recommends that children ages 6 months and up and all adults get the vaccination yearly. Most family practitioners and clinics offer the flu shot throughout the flu season, (typically from September through February) for around $20-$35. You can also get the vaccination free through the Orange County Health Care Agency's Public Health Clinics. CVC Pharmacy locations across Orange County even offer "minute clinics," where no appointment is necessary and the shot can be obtained quickly and easily.

For more information or to locate Health Care Agency Public Health Clinics in Orange County visit ochealthinfo.com or call (800) 564-8448.

Here are some reasons why the flu shot is as vital as turkey and eggnog this season:

* The flu shot protects against the three main influenza strands that attack our immune systems every year and will develop antibodies in your system that will fight the flu throughout the entire flu season.
* Even if you catch another strand of the flu virus, in most cases, symptoms will be milder with a vaccination.
* People who are considered high risk, such as the elderly, children and pregnant women, can be hospitalized if they catch the flu without a vaccination and in some cases, hospitalization can result in death.
* The flu can be spread as early as one day prior to symptoms developing and as late as five days after becoming sick, leaving plenty of opportunity to pass and catch the harmful germs.


Registered nurse Mary Jean VanKrugel, of Community Care Health Center in Huntington Beach, addresses potential concerns about the flu shot:

What kinds of reactions can people have from the vaccination?
There are very mild side effects from getting a flu shot. Usually the patient will only experience tenderness at the site of injection or soreness. Some people can get a mild fever and aches, but this is uncommon.

What are some serious side effects patients might experience if they have an allergic reaction to the vaccine?
A high fever is usually one of the first signs of some type of reaction; also a patient can break out in hives, have trouble breathing and this should be addressed immediately.

Who should avoid the flu shot?
Anyone who has egg allergies should not take the shot and could have serious complications if they do. Also, most clinics or physicians use latex gloves and this can cause irritations in people with latex allergies. You should always tell your doctor or nurse giving the shot about your allergies prior to injection.

Can pregnant women receive the vaccination?
Absolutely. In fact, pregnant women are considered high risk for catching influenza and are encouraged to get the shot.

Are reactions to shots potentially worse than just catching the flu?
I think that's subjective. Most people hate shots, and therefore avoid the shot altogether. But really, it's safer for everyone when people get vaccinated because it lessens the amount of people who can spread the virus. Plus, the shot makes symptoms less severe if you do end up catching the flu, so it's best to cover all bases. The flu shot is the single best way to avoid catching and spreading influenza.


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