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As Flu Rates Rise Rapidly, It's Not Too Late to Protect Yourself

This is a stock photo of a woman with the flu. You can tell she’s not a mom because she’s lying in bed and no one is whining at her to make dinner.

The influenza virus is widespread in 41 states, says the US Centers for Disease Control, and continuing to spread, but it’s not too late to get a flu vaccine.

The city of Boston has declared a public health emergency, with over 700 cases being reported so far this season, compared to 70 at the same time last year. Eighteen people have died in recent weeks in Massachusetts due to the flu.

Across the nation, eighteen children have died during this season due to complications from the flu, says the CDC. According to CDC data, those children’s ages ranged from infant to teens.

Groups at higher risk for developing complications from the flu include:

  • Children younger than 5, and especially children younger than 2
  • Pregnant women
  • Adults over the age of 65
  • Children and adults with certain medical conditions, such as asthma, chronic lung disease, heart disease, mitochondrial disorders, and certain neurological disorders.

Rarely, the flu can be fatal even in otherwise healthy children, teens, and adults, as in the case of 15-year-old Martin McGowen, who died in October of complications from the flu.

Of course, the flu isn’t usually fatal, but it can present severe complications and will absolutely make you miserable. According to the CDC, symptoms include:

  • Fever (although not always)
  • Cough, sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose, which is a nice way of saying that your head will be stuffed past capacity with horrible evil snot
  • Headaches (probably from all that evil snot in your head)
  • Muscle and body aches
  • Fatigue (tiredness)
  • Some people will have vomiting and/or diarrhea, although that is more common in children. Sometimes the intense coughing will result in vomiting.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) emphasizes that it’s not too late to be vaccinated against the flu. Immunizations usually take several weeks to be fully effective, but a flu vaccine now may keep you from getting a severe case of the flu in the next few weeks. Also, keep in mid that the flu peaks in January and February, but cases continue on into spring.

“This is particularly late in the flu season for very young children, because to optimize immune response, children between the ages of 6 and 35 months need two shots, four weeks apart, during their first season of vaccination,” said Dr. William Rodriguez, a pediatrician with the FDA. “However, even one shot provides some protection, so even now there is time to get some benefit.”

Our whole family gets the flu shot every year. All four kids and I have asthma, so we’re high-risk, but not good candidates for the nasal mist vaccine. My husband could get the nasal mist, but he gets the needle with us, in solidarity.

Even if you don’t have our asthma issue, here are some more reasons you should consider getting the flu vaccine:

  • Even if you kid already got the flu vaccine, she will still manage to bring home the virus to you like a tiny little Typhoid Mary because that school is a germfest.
  • If you get one, you can shame your husband into getting one, which is good because that whole sick-man-laying-on-the-couch-whining thing is soooooo irritating.
  • If you don’t have asthma, you can probably just get the nasal mist.
  • You’re a mom. You do not have time to be sick.
  • Winter break is over, so when you do get sick, you will still be expected to magically get everyone ready for school and help with math homework.

Of course, the flu vaccine isn’t going to protect you from the whooping cough that’s running rampant or the totally gross norovirus barfing thing that’s out there, so you should also wash your hands all the time like you’re Lady MacBeth or something.

(Photo Credits: iStockphoto, flu.gov)

Read more from Joslyn on Babble and at her blog, stark. raving. mad. mommy. You can also follow Joslyn on FacebookTwitter, and Pinterest.

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