It's the end of October and it's the time of year when you should be getting your flu shot (if you have not already done so). Flu season lasts from late fall through early spring. Your body needs up to two weeks after you receive the vaccine to develop antibodies against the flu. According to the CDC, during the 2019-20 flu season, 38 million people were ill with the flu, 18 million people went to a healthcare provider due to flu, 400,000 people were hospitalized for flu, and 22,000 died of influenza. The numbers from 2020-21 were lower due to measures being in place to prevent COVID. Experts are expecting higher flu numbers since people are socializing, working in offices, and not wearing masks 100% of the time in public.
This season we need to think about COVID and the flu since both viruses will be in circulation this fall and winter. The COVID vaccine will not prevent the flu and the flu vaccine will not prevent COVID. You will need both of the vaccines to protect yourself from both of these viruses.
Flu is spread via droplets when an infected person sneezes, coughs, or talks. Flu viruses can be spread via droplets on surfaces and then is spread when someone touches those droplets and touches their mouth, nose, and eyes.
The flu vaccine is the best way to prevent the flu. You need to get the flu vaccine annually. If you had the flu vaccine last season it will not protect you from this season's flu. The more people that are vaccinated, the less likely the flu virus will spread through a community (sound familiar). The flu vaccine is recommended for everyone older than 6 months old as long as you have no contraindications. The CDC recommends that only infants less than 6 months old and people with severe life threatening allergies to the flu vaccine or its ingredients should not be immunized. You need to discuss with your doctor if you have allergies to eggs and other vaccine ingredients, if you have ever had Guillain-Barre Syndrome, or if you are feeling ill.
Flu viruses change yearly and that is why you need a new flu vaccine each year. The current vaccine is updated yearly with the virus strains that the experts believe will be circulating this year. This year the vaccine should provide protection against four different influenza strains. Also your immunity decreases over time. Therefore, the best protection for the flu is the yearly vaccine.
The flu vaccine cannot give you the flu. It does not increase your risk of getting COVID. Even if you get the flu vaccine, you can develop flu like symptoms. You may develop muscle aches and a fever a day or two after receiving your vaccine. This is due to your body producing antibodies against the flu. You may catch the flu if you are exposed within two weeks of getting the vaccine. It takes two weeks for the vaccine to be fully protective. If there are other flu viruses circulating than those within the vaccine, it may be less effective. The common cold and other viruses produce symptoms that may mimic the flu.
It is recommended that the majority of Americans should be vaccinated against the flu, especially if you are at high risk for flu complications. Although the flu is usually a self-limiting illness, there can be complications associated with the flu. Those with the highest risk of developing flu related complications are children less than 5 years old, especially children less than 2 years old, individuals who are 65 years old or greater, pregnant women which includes up to two weeks post partum, Native Americans and Alaskan Natives, those living in long term care facilities, and those with certain medical conditions. Medical conditions such as chronic cardiovascular, renal, pulmonary disorders, and immunosuppression also put you at a higher risk of complications.
Reduce Your Risk of the Flu:
1. Yearly flu vaccine
2. Avoid close contact with sick people
3. Wash your hands
4. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth
5. Wear a mask
6. Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that might be contaminated with germs
7. Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue if you cough or sneeze and then throw the tissue into the trash
If You Feel Sick:
1. Limit your contact with other people
2. Stay home for at least 24 hours after you have a fever (except to get medical care)
Getting your flu shot now is the best way to protect yourself from the flu this season
Flu Vaccine Benefits:
1. Reduces flu illness
2. Reduces doctor's visits
3. Reduces missed work or school days
4. Prevents flu related hospitalizations
With a little bit of prevention now, you can hopefully stay healthy this upcoming flu season. As always if things are not going as you plan with your health and you need some help managing it, please don't hesitate to reach out to me... your health advocate.