Flu is the common name for influenza. It’s a virus that infects the respiratory system, which controls your breathing. A great way to protect yourself, your family and your community is to get the flu shot every year! You can get a flu shot at the Teen Health Center or your local health department for a very low cost, or even for free.
How does the flu spread?
The flu can spread through the air from person to person. Tiny droplets of saliva are sprayed into the air when you cough, sneeze or speak. If someone has the flu virus, then being near that person increases your risk of getting the flu through airborne particles.
The flu can also spread by touching things that someone with the flu has already touched. If your friend has the flu and touches his face, then hands an object to you, you might accidentally pick up the flu virus yourself.
Signs that you have the flu
Flu symptoms will usually show up 1-4 days after being exposed to the virus. Symptoms include:
- Sore throat
- Muscle aches
- Stuffy nose
- Dry cough
What to do if you have the flu
It’s incredibly important to stay home if you have the flu. Drink plenty of fluids, because it’s common and dangerous to get dehydrated. Pain relievers may help alleviate your symptoms, but you should only take them under adult supervision.
Want to know more about the flu?
At certain ages, all students are required to get certain shots at the doctor’s office. Those shots are called vaccines, and they help your your body become immune, or protected against diseases.
What do vaccines do?
As a child, you probably got lots of shots, or vaccinations, to build up an immunity against diseases like chicken pox, measles and mumps. If you’ve never been sick with any of those diseases, it’s probably because you received the immunization shot for them and your body was able to protect you from getting sick.
Do I need vaccines?
Yes! Vaccines not only keep you, but also the entire community healthy. Would you prefer to live in a city where everyone is sick, coughing and sneezing on the streets? Or one where people are healthy and smiling? Believe it or not, when everyone in a community is vaccinated, diseases are blocked from that area, and more people stay healthy. But if one person doesn’t get their shots, that person can get sick and introduce the disease to the community. That’s why it’s important for you and all of your friends and family to get vaccinated!
Can vaccines make me sick?
Actually, no! Often people get a flu shot and later feel sick, so they think the vaccine caused it. But flu shots–and other vaccinations–contain inactive versions of the virus, so they can’t make you sick. What probably happens is that the person gets a cold around the same time that they got their flu shot, but that’s just bad timing. The flu is a miserable disease, and will give you a very high fever, aches, chills, headaches, and can sometimes even cause death in some cases. The flu makes you feel worse than any normal cold, but the flu shot will help you avoid all that.
How long do vaccines last?
Some immunizations last your whole life, and others may need a ‘booster’ after a little while to keep protecting you. Your doctor will let you know when it’s time to update your vaccines. If you’re planning to travel overseas, always speak with your doctor before you go to make sure you’re vaccinated against diseases commonly found in those countries!
If you have questions about getting vaccinated, talk to your parents, guardians or doctor. Or you can always call us at the Teen Health Center, where we provide free vaccines to teens! For more information, check out these websites:
- Vaccines.gov – Safety
- ImmunizeForGood.com – How Vaccines Work
- HealthyChildren.org – Vaccine-Safety & Facts
January is Cervical Cancer Awareness month … but did you know there are other cancers that affect women’s reproductive organs, too?
Breaking It Down
So what are “reproductive organs,” anyway? Women’s reproductive organs include the cervix, ovaries, uterus, vagina and vulva. Cancers that start in these places are called gynecologic cancers. (Woah… did you even know you could get cancer there?)
How Do I Know if I Have Cancer?
Every cancer is unique with its own signs, symptoms, and risks. All women are at risk for gynecologic cancers and the risk only increases with age. Of all these cancers, the only one that is routinely screened for is cervical cancer with a pap smear starting at age 21. Yearly exams with a gynecologist or trained health care provider are important to screen for any early signs of cancer and many other health problems. Remember to get your pap starting at 21 and come in yearly for an annual exam regardless of age.
How to Prevent Cancer
It’s hard to actually prevent anything … but you can always make smart decisions to try to avoid cancer. Most gynecologic cancers are caused by the Human Papilloma virus (HPV), so the best thing you can do is avoid getting HPV. But how?
Using condoms for safe sex are a great start, because they’ll help protect you from HPV and other STDs. Or, if you’re under 21, you can get the HPV vaccine! The HPV vaccine is just 3 shots over six months. Although there’s no 100% guarantee that you’ll avoid cancer, the HPV vaccine can greatly reduce your risk.
Want to know more about gynecologic health and cancers? Check it out: