Make this one your best shot

You know that skipping class is not going to help your grades or your knowledge. Considering you’ve already missed a few days back when you were, hmm, celebrating, now you have to be at school dead or alive. So, have you taken the precautions? Have you secured yourself with the best attendance insurance of the year – the flu shot? The sick time of the year is officially here.

The flu season generally lasts from the beginning of October and peaks between January and March. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in an average year influenza is associated with more than 20,000 deaths nationwide and more than 100,000 hospitalizations. If not deadly, the disease can be extremely dangerous or just very unpleasant.

First, it is important to know the difference between a cold and the flu. Colds, caused by more than 200 different viruses, affect the upper respiratory system and are recognized by runny noses and sniffling. Influenza, otherwise known as the flu, is much more serious affecting both upper and lower respiratory systems.

It usually begins with sudden weakness and fatigue accompanied by a sore throat, nasal stuffiness and a headache. Fever, dry cough and chest pain follow.

Although nausea, vomiting and diarrhea can sometimes accompany influenza, especially in children, these symptoms are uncommon with the flu. The term “stomach flu” is a misnomer that is sometimes used to describe gastrointestinal illnesses caused by organisms other than influenza viruses.

The flu is caused by viruses Influenza A and Influenza B that continually change over time, which enables them to evade the immune system of its host. New strains of the flu develop every year, making it impossible to build immunity to the constantly mutating virus. This year, there are three strains of the virus that are expected to be particularly common: the Moscow, the New Caledonia and the Hong Kong.

Flu symptoms usually start in one to four days after being infected. A person with influenza can be contagious one day before symptoms appear and for three to seven days after the onset of symptoms. The great danger of influenza is its tendency to develop into a particularly severe form of pneumonia.

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Your best protection against the flu is an annual flu shot. It takes about two weeks after influenza vaccination for a person to develop protection against infection.

You need to get a flu shot even if you had one last year because the virus strains in the last year’s vaccine and those in circulation now are different and will not protect you from a current flu strain.

Side effects are mild and usually appear in the form of soreness, redness, or swelling where the shot was given, low-grade fever and aches are not uncommon. Allergic reactions to the flu shot are more likely to occur among people who have an allergy to eggs, because the viruses used in the vaccine are grown in hens’ eggs. In such circumstances, consult your physician.

Try to minimize your stress level, get plenty of sleep, eat a balanced diet, exercise and keep a positive attitude. Despite the pressure of the semester coming to an end, take it easy by prioritizing duties and responsibilities. Besides, who wants to spend a wonderfully festive time of year in bed with a sickness?