By: Alysa Rogers
The temperatures are dropping, Halloween’s behind us, and stores are starting to decorate for Christmas. It can all only mean one thing: flu season is upon us again, and it’s time to get vaccinated!
While the flu is around all year, the number of cases reported in the northern hemisphere peaks between December and February. However, waiting until December to get the flu shot is a bad idea. The season has, in fact, already started in Colorado: there have been 24 hospitalizations in the state since October 1, and that number continues to grow. While that’s a relatively small number (there are around 5.5 million Colorado residents), the flu is highly contagious and there is almost certainly a much larger number of people who’ve had the flu and not been hospitalized, and instead, they’ve been transmitting it to all their friends and family. It’s going around, and unless you’ve already gotten this year’s shot, you’re vulnerable.
Getting the vaccine as soon as possible is the best line of defense. The number of people infected with the flu is only going to climb from here, and with it, your chances of getting it. The CDC recommends getting the vaccine before it starts spreading in your community. While it’s a little late for that, it’s early enough that you should still be fine for the year if you get it now. Why so early? For one, because you don’t want to get the flu: symptoms of flu include a runny nose, fever, muscle aches, nausea, and dehydration, among others. If it’s severe enough, it could lead to hospitalization and, worst casescenario, death. While these outcomes are unlikely for healthy high schoolers, the flu in and of itself is pretty nasty. Another reason you need to get it so early is because the vaccine doesn’t make you immediately immune. The flu vaccine works basically by training your body to fight the flu virus. When you get a flu shot, your immune system makes antibodies that can flag the virus for destruction by your white blood cells. This process can take around two weeks, so you won’t be fully armed for flu season until around mid-November, andcould still catch it until then. Until then, washing your hands frequently is your best bet for staying healthy.
What should you do if you do get the flu, despite your best efforts? Stay home, and stay hydrated. You absolutely shouldn’t come to school–no test, no matter how big, justifies getting other people sick, especially with the flu. Hydration is key to recovery, and since dehydration is a symptom of the virus, it’s doubly important. Proper nutrition and rest are important to getting better as well–your body is putting a lot of energy into fighting the virus, so getting enough sleep is crucial. You can back to school 24 hours after your fever is gone without the aid of fever-reducing drugs. The vast majority of flu cases are very mild, and you should be fine within a few days. Yet another reason to get a shot–even if you do end up getting the virus, the symptoms and length of infection are greatly reduced.
So get out there–enjoy the crisp, cool fall air! Eat all the candy you can! Groan at the Christmas decorations! (Seriously, two months in advance is a little too much.) Please, please go get that flu shot! Protect yourself and others! Be the healthy person you know you can be all through winter!
DPHE, Colorado. “Influenza Data.” Department of Public Health and Environment, Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, 14 Oct. 2017, www.colorado.gov/pacific/cdphe/influenza-data.
“Influenza (Flu).” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 20 Oct. 2017, http://www.cdc.gov/flu/index.htm.