It’s approaching that time of year when viruses are all around us, the main culprit being influenza. The Centers for Disease Control has provided the public with the most up to date recommendations to help us from getting the flu in the upcoming 2016-2017 season. They tell us that the flu typically circulates the U.S. from late fall through early spring. Usually the flu patient will recover with no lasting effects, though feeling miserable while they have it. The virus can, in some instances though, cause serious illness and even death, especially in the elderly, very young children, pregnant women, and those people with chronic medical conditions. During flu season, 80% to 90% of flu related deaths have occurred in people 65 and older. The CDC also states that it must be given annually, as the immune system declines over time, and flu viruses constantly change, so updating is needed.
Who Should Get the Flu Shot
Influenza vaccine is the primary means of preventing the flu. The flu vaccine is recommended for all people age 6 and over. Children 6 months to 8 years require 2 doses if this is their first time for the vaccine, or have had only one dose. The 2 doses are given at least 28 days apart. One shot “primes” the immune system, and the other protects. One dose of the needed 2-dose regimen offers no protection at all from the flu. This means it is very important to get these children started on their vaccinations early, as they must wait the 28 days for the second dose. In the case of persons over the age of 65, they will receive a high dose flu shot.
Who Should NOT Get the Flu Shot
Exceptions to those getting the flu shot include people with severe allergies to ingredients in flu vaccine. Egg allergy patients, people that have had Guillain-Barre Syndrome, or patients that have not been feeling well should discuss with their doctor about taking the flu shot before getting it.
When Should You Get the Flu Shot
It is generally considered wise to get your flu shot as soon as possible once it’s available. It takes approximately 2 weeks for the vaccine to become fully effective, (giving antibodies time to build up in the system) and some influenza can show up as early as October. However, there is some evidence that some, particularly those over 65, may need a higher dose for the flu shot to continue to be effective. The CDC says,
“Although immunity obtained from flu vaccination can vary by person, previously published studies suggest that immunity lasts through a full flu season for most people.
There is some evidence, however, that immunity may decline more quickly in older people. For older adults, two vaccine options are available. One of these options is a “high-dose” vaccine, which is designed specifically for people 65 and older. This vaccine contains a higher dose of antigen (the part of the vaccine that prompts the body to make antibody), which is intended to create a stronger immune response in this age group.”
Flu Shot or Flu Nasal Spray?
The injectable vaccine is recommended for the season this year. According to the CDC, the nasal spray flu vaccine should NOT be used for the 2016-2017 flu season. It has been proven to not protect adequately.
The injection is given at doctor’s offices, clinics, and pharmacies, as well as some employers.
The CDC also provides us with an informative “Frequently Asked Flu Questions 2016-2017 Influenza Season” page as well as answers to “Misconceptions About Seasonal Flu and Flu Vaccines” and we invite you to review both carefully.
In addition to the flu vaccine, some other ways to protect yourself from getting sick are thoroughly washing your hands to prevent the spread of germs and try to steer clear of those that are ill. Eat right and exercise is always a great practice as well. Also, if you do get sick, stay home from work and keep children home from school, to avoid spreading the virus to others.
So, take the CDC’s advice and get that flu shot! It’s important to do everything we possibly can to protect ourselves and our families from getting sick. We all want to enjoy the upcoming fall and winter seasons, and keeping well is a primary way to make that happen.