Published on 12/13/07

A flu shot now can still give protection

By Faith Peppers
University of Georgia

The holiday season will soon fade. But the height of flu season is still ahead. It’s not too late to get that little shot of prevention, says a University of Georgia health expert.

According to the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a flu shot in December can still give good protection, said Connie Crawley, a health specialist with the UGA Cooperative Extension.

“It takes about two weeks for immunity to set up,” she said. “That is still before the worst of the flu season after the holidays.”

Anyone who doesn’t want to get the flu should have the shot, she said. But some people have a higher chance of getting the flu each year.

These people should get the shot:

  • Health and safety workers

  • Children between 6 months of age and 5 years

  • People over 50

  • Anyone on a long-term aspirin treatment

  • Women who will be pregnant during flu season

  • Anyone with long-term health problems

  • Anyone with a weakened immune system due to disease or certain drug or cancer treatments

  • Anyone with muscle or nerve disorders like cerebral palsy or seizure disorders

  • Residents of nursing homes and other chronic-care facilities

  • Anyone who lives with or takes care of people with a high risk to flu

    Unless you’ve actually had the flu, she said, you might confuse a bad cold with the flu. How do you know the difference? The biggest tell is a person with a cold rarely runs fever or has a headache.

    “Symptoms of flu include body aches, chills, dry cough, fever, headache, sore throat and stuffy nose,” Crawley said. “The common symptoms of a cold include runny nose, congestion, sneezing, weakened sense of taste and smell, sore or scratchy throat and cough.”

    Since either can be miserable, Crawley recommends taking precautions to prevent spreading germs.

    “The best way to avoid spreading cold and flu is to stay home when you’re sick and limit exposure to others,” she said. “For flu, some antiviral medications are available, but they must be taken within 48 hours after the symptoms begin. There is some concern about their side effects.”

    If you are sick, wash your hands often and avoid coughing or sneezing on others, she said. Sick people should have separate towels for their use only while they are ill.

    “Those caring for a sick person should also wash their hands after touching the sick person or anything in contact with them and after blowing their own noses,” she said.

    (Faith Peppers is a news editor for the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)

  • Faith Peppers is the director of public affairs with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.