Sniffling, sneezing, coughing, sore throats. Yes, cooler temperatures mean cold season is upon us. But is the common cold all we have to worry about? Fall and winter is also the onset of flu season. In Michigan last year, the incidence of flu illness started much earlier than in previous years and with a greater impact. Unlike the cold, the flu comes suddenly and can lead to severe illness or death. Thankfully, unlike the common cold, seasonal flu can be prevented with a flu shot and for good reason.

Catching the flu, also known as influenza, does not just mean missing a few days of school or work. The illness can range from mild fever and sore throat to pneumonia

and bronchitis. For those with chronic diseases, flu may worsen health conditions. People with asthma may experience asthma attacks while they have the flu, and people with chronic congestive heart failure may experience worsening of their condition. Even more alarming is the chance of life-threatening illness and death. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that seasonal flu has accounted for between 3,000 to 49,000 deaths per year over the past 31 seasons. During a regular flu season, from October to May, about 90 percent of flu-related deaths occur in people 65 years and older.

Even as a health professional, I once believed that I could stay healthy without a shot and avoid the harmful effects of the flu. And even if I did catch it, it wouldn’t be so bad, right? Wrong. The flu is unpredictable, and its impact is largely out of our control — unless we vaccinate. It was not until a close family member became suddenly ill and near death that I really understood the importance of the flu shot. Vaccines not only protect an individual, but our communities as well. Each one of us has a responsibility to those closest to us to prevent the flu from spreading.

Myth: If you don’t get the flu vaccine before December, it is too late.

Fact: You can get a flu shot anytime during the flu season but once symptoms come, it is too late to protect ourselves against the infection.

Myth: If I take the flu shot it can give me the flu.

Fact: If you have children, elderly, or pregnant women around, it’s especially important to protect them, as they are most susceptible to die from flu-related illness. Everyone over six months of age should get a flu shot.

The Institute of Population Health offers walk-in flu clinics at our new location at 8904 Woodward Ave, Detroit, and our northeast location at 5400 East Seven Mile Road. No appointment necessary. Just walk right in. We are fully staffed and will get people in and out quickly. Our process makes it easy to get the shot and is an essential step to preventing serious illness for yourself and those around you this fall and winter.

To learn more about flu prevention and flu immunizations, call the IPH at (313) 324-9482. You can also access information on our website at http://www.ipophealth.org.

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