Leaves are turning colors, football season is well underway and pumpkin-spice is in almost any product imaginable. While most breathe a sigh of relief with cooler temperatures, another autumn tradition, flu shots, are being given at workplaces and schools across the country. 

Citizen Potawatomi Nation’s Health Services staff spent late September and early October immunizing staff across the tribal enterprises and programs. CPN tribal member and current Public Health Coordinator, Kassi Roselius, M.D., spoke to the Hownikan about being prepared for flu season, the myths and misunderstandings health providers hear this time of year, and how to know if you’ve actually got the flu.

Why get the flu shot?

“Influenza is a virus which occurs most frequently during the months of October through May. The virus is spread mainly through person-to-person contact, sneezing and coughing. Besides adequate hand-washing and covering their cough, a person can help protect themselves from the flu by receiving the vaccine. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the flu vaccine can help prevent people from getting the flu, make symptoms less severe if a person has it and prevent spreading the virus to other family members. A yearly flu vaccine is recommended for people ages six months and older. Children between the ages of six months to eight years old may need two separate doses during the same flu season.”

Will the vaccine give a person the flu?

“The flu vaccine does not contain any live virus in the shot. Therefore, the flu shot cannot give you the flu. Each year a new vaccine is manufactured in hopes of protecting against three to four different viral strands. Symptoms may occur with the administration of the shot, such as sore muscles in the arm, fatigue, or lowgrade fever; however, these symptoms should only last 24-48 hours.”

How can someone tell the difference between the cold or flu in terms of symptoms? 

“Cold symptoms are less severe and have a gradual onset. Common cold symptoms can include cough, stuffy or runny nose, sore throat and lowgrade fever. Recovery from a cold can take 7-14 days. 

“Flu symptoms occur suddenly and usually include a high temperature, chills, fatigue and body aches.”

How does one know whether they’re contagious?

“Adults are contagious one day before symptoms to five days after exposure. Children may be contagious for more than seven days. The virus is spread through particles in the air, so covering when one coughs, washing hands and avoiding sharing cups, utensils, etc. can aide in prevention of spreading the virus.”

What are some myths you or other health care providers hear about the cold and flu season that are just flat out wrong?

“You cannot get the flu from the flu shot. There is no live virus in the shot. Patients may have side effects such as mentioned above, but those symptoms are not the flu and should resolve within 24-48 hours. 

“The flu shot is highly recommended in pregnancy and is safe. 

“Patients can receive the flu vaccine even if they are ‘sick’ with a cold, which are generally caused by a virus and cannot be treated with antibiotics.”

If you would like to learn more about CPN Health Services, please visit https://www.potawatomi.org/services/health/clinics or call 405-273-5236.