Categorized | Healthy Lifestyle

A flu shot should be on to-do’s list

By David Rideout

The weather is a bit cooler, and we are spending more time indoors. The cold and flu season is not far off. The Centers for Disease Control recommends everyone 6 months and older have a yearly flu shot. The virus that causes the flu causes respiratory symptoms that can be moderate to severe, and sometimes lead to death.

The best way to prevent becoming infected with the virus is to get a flu shot.

Dr. Rideout(RXcolumn)Having a fever or feeling feverish with chills is common with the flu. Other symptoms are cough, sore throat and nasal symptoms. Often the flu involves muscle or body aches, headaches and a feeling of extreme fatigue. Some people infected have vomiting and diarrhea. The flu is spread via droplets transmitted in the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes. The flu is highly contagious, and someone who inhales these droplets can readily become infected.

The flu is an unpredictable illness and can vary year to year in severity. Certain factors that play a role in the severity of the seasonal flu include which viruses are spreading (yes, the flu is not just one virus, but a combination of viruses), how many people have been vaccinated, and how well the flu vaccine for that season is matched to the viruses that are causing the illnesses.

People can pass the flu virus on to others before they even know that they are sick. You can be spreading the virus to others a day before your symptoms develop. A person with the flu remains contagious for five- to- seven days after becoming ill. The elderly, and those with chronic health conditions can be infectious for as long as three weeks.

Individuals should not delay getting the flu vaccination. Get your flu shot as soon as the vaccine is available. This allows a greater portion of the public to be vaccinated before the flu season peaks in January or February. It takes two weeks after vaccination for the body to produce the anti-bodies to protect against the influenza infection, so it is best to get the shot before the virus is in full force in your community.

People who are at high risk for developing serious complications, such as pneumonia, if they get sick with the flu should get the vaccination. This population includes people with chronic medical conditions such as asthma, diabetes, and lung disease.

People over 65 years old should be vaccinated. Also, people who are caregivers or in close contact with any of the high risk groups should also be vaccinated.

There is a small group of individuals who should not get the vaccine. Anyone with a history of the illness Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS) generally should not receive the vaccine and should consult with their physician before getting vaccinated. Also, anyone who is currently suffering from a moderate to severe illness should wait to recover before they are vaccinated.

By Dr. David Rideout, M.D. is the lead physician at Doctors Express in the Saugus Center, one of 11 Eastern Massachusetts offices, offering seven-day walk-in urgent medical care. For more information visit our website at Read additional articles on


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