First off, let’s get a common misconception out of the way right away, shall we? There isn’t really a flu “season.” The virus circulates all year round, and you can catch the flu during any month. However, the majority of flu cases do arise in the fall and winter, making the colder months the unofficial “flu season.”
Just how bad is the flu during this time of year? Well, last year was downright horrible, as it marked the worst year for the flu ever recorded in the United States. In fact, more than 80,000 people died last year from the flu.
But forewarned is forearmed, as they say, so here’s some vital information regarding this year’s flu “season.”
First off, the CDC recommends that everyone who is able get a flu shot. Timing is key here, as the antibodies in the vaccine typically take a couple of weeks to actually start protecting you against the flu virus. October usually marks the onset of flu season, so you’ll want to get the vaccine as early in the month as possible. However, just because you miss getting the shot in October doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get it all. Also, keep in mind that children often need to get two doses of the vaccine, and you normally have to wait 4 weeks between doses, so plan accordingly.
As mentioned above, the CDC suggests that everyone who is 6 months or older should get the flu vaccine, and it comes in both shot form and as a nasal spray. The nasal spray can be given to anyone who is between the age of 2 and 49 and who isn’t pregnant. Certain restrictions are in place for receiving the spray, such as anyone who already has a weakened immune system. Also, the shot is recommended over the spray for children because it provides the most consistent protection.
Many people question whether or not a flu shot will actually be effective. While it’s true that experts can never predict with 100% accuracy which virus strains will be present each year, they can lay down some pretty good guesses, and it’s those predictions that drive the vaccines for any given year. One thing is for sure, getting a flu shot certainly won’t hurt your chances of staying healthy this season.