National Influenza Vaccination Week (December 5-9) reminds us that there’s still time to get a flu vaccine. While you can get sick with the flu at any time of year, most flu viruses spread during the fall and winter months. An annual flu vaccination can lower your risk of getting the flu and the risk of having serious illness from the flu.
What is the Flu?
Influenza, or “flu,” is a contagious illness caused by a virus that affects the nose, throat and lungs. It can cause mild to severe symptoms and can even be life-threatening. Common flu symptoms include:
- Sore throat
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Muscle or body aches
- Vomiting and diarrhea
Most people who get the flu can treat themselves at home with rest, over-the-counter fever and cough medicines, and plenty of water, but in some cases, a person may need medical attention for flu complications. See a doctor right away if you experience difficulty breathing, chest pain, ongoing dizziness or seizures.
The best way to prevent flu is by getting a flu vaccine each year. Flu viruses are always changing, so flu vaccines are updated each year to protect against the viruses that are likely to be common during the upcoming flu season. The protection you get from a flu vaccine will decrease over time, so it’s important to be vaccinated every year for the best protection against flu. Flu vaccination can help you avoid illness, reduce your chance of serious complications and prevent you from spreading flu viruses to friends and family.
Everyone 6 months of age and older is recommended to get an annual flu vaccine. Flu shots are covered by most insurance plans, including Medicaid and Medicare. Visit your doctor or any local pharmacy to get a flu shot, or find a vaccination site near you at GetMyFluShot.org. Free and low-cost flu vaccine options may be available from local health centers. Walk-in flu shots are available at local Arkansas Department of Health units. Learn more at healthy.arkansas.gov/.
Flu & COVID-19
Flu and COVID-19 are both contagious respiratory illnesses, but they are caused by different viruses. The two illnesses share many symptoms, and it can be difficult to tell the difference between the two without specific testing. You can get a flu vaccine and a COVID-19 vaccine or booster at the same visit if you are due for both. Ask your doctor or local pharmacist about getting both vaccines at a single visit to better protect yourself against flu and COVID-19 this winter.