It's time for a flu shot.

You can get the flu vaccine from your doctor, and at public health facilities, senior centers, pharmacies and supermarkets. The vaccine can be administered anytime during flu season.

Adults over 50 are prime candidates for the vaccine because the flu can be fatal for older people.

More than 200,000 flu victims are hospitalized annually in the United States; about 36,000 people die from it. As much as 20 percent of the U.S. population gets the flu each year. Flu season usually begins in October and can last through May.

Flu is a contagious illness of the respiratory system caused by the influenza virus. Flu can lead to pneumonia, bronchitis, sinusitis, ear problems and dehydration.

Droplets from coughing and sneezing spread the flu. An adult with flu can infect others beginning one day before symptoms develop and up to five days after becoming sick. Children may spread flu for more than seven days.

The best way to combat the bug is to get the flu vaccine. You have to get inoculated annually because new vaccines are prepared every year to combat new versions of the virus. When you battle the flu, you develop antibodies to the invading virus, but those antibodies don't work on new strains.

The vaccine does not prevent flu in all people. It works better in younger recipients than older ones. Contrary to rumor, you can't catch the flu from the vaccine. The flu vaccine is not made from a live virus.

There are three different flu shots available: a regular shot approved for people ages 6 months and older, a high-dose flu shot approved for people 65 and older, and an intradermal flu shot approved for people 18 to 64 years of age.

The intradermal flu vaccine uses a very fine needle that is injected into the skin instead of muscle. This is designed for people who hate needles.

A nasal-spray flu vaccine is approved for healthy people 2 through 49 years of age who are not pregnant.

The recovery time for the flu is about one to two weeks. However, in seniors, weakness may persist for a longer time.

The common scenario for flu is a sudden onset of symptoms, which include chills, fatigue, fever, cough, headache, sore throat, nasal congestion, muscle aches and appetite loss.

While nausea, vomiting and diarrhea can be related to the flu, these are rarely the primary flu symptoms. The flu is not a stomach or intestinal disease. The term "stomach flu" is inaccurate.

When symptoms strike, get to a doctor as soon as possible; the faster the better. There are prescription antiviral drugs to treat flu.

Over-the-counter medicines can help relieve symptoms of the flu. You should also drink liquids to prevent dehydration, and sleep to bolster your immune system.

If you would like to read more columns, you can order a copy of "How To Be A Healthy Geezer" at www.healthygeezer.com [1].

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