Medical Monday: protect yourself against the flu

The first week of December is National Influenza Vaccination Week and believe it or not, it's not too late to protect yourself for the season.

Cutout Photo: ZaldyImg / Flickr / CC BY 2.0 (MGN)

"It certainly is not a minor illness by any stretch of the imagination," explained Dr. Susan Rehm with Cleveland Clinic. "We don't know whether the flu season will be good or bad this year. We do know that the flu is predictably unpredictable. We don't know exactly when it's going to hit, we don't know how hard it's going to be."

The CDC recently reported that the flu was responsible for as many as 80,000 deaths last winter. They recommend everyone six months and older receive a flu vaccine.

Doctors say a common myth is that the flu shot will cause a person to get the flu, but that isn't true. While a person may feel a little achy or tired afterward, that's actually just the immune system getting ready to fight off the flu.

"Getting influenza vaccine is the best thing you can do to protect yourself against influenza. Perhaps, more importantly in some settings, is the fact that the more people who get vaccinated, the less flu spreads around," added Dr. Rehm.

Doctors add now is a good time to get one, especially because it takes the body up to four weeks to develop its immune response and flu activity typically begins to peak in January.