Flu season is almost upon us and that means it is time for flu shots. Receiving a flu vaccine can prevent influenza, a contagious disease that spreads through respiratory droplets when infected persons cough or sneeze. It typically appears between October and May each year.
According to the CDC, Flu can also spread through indirect contact with respiratory secretions such as when touching surfaces contaminated with influenza virus and then touching the eyes, nose or mouth. Anyone can get flu, but certain populations are more likely to have flu complications such as infants and young children, people 65 years of age and older, pregnant women, people with certain health conditions or a weakened immune system.
Flu complications include pneumonia, bronchitis, sinus infections and ear infections. If you have a medical condition such as heart disease, cancer or diabetes, flu can make it worse. Classic symptoms include fever and chills, sore throat, muscle aches, fatigue, cough, headache, and runny or stuffy nose. Vomiting and diarrhea may also occur, but this is more common in children than adults. Adults can transmit influenza from the day before symptom onset to approximately 5 days after symptoms begin. Children can transmit influenza to others for 10 or more days.
CDC recommends everyone 6 months of age and older get vaccinated every flu season. Children 6 months through 8 years of age may need 2 doses during a single flu season. Everyone else needs only 1 dose each flu season.
What to know about the Flu Vaccine:
Influenza vaccine does not cause flu
After vaccination, it takes about 2 weeks for protection to develop
Flu viruses are constantly changing. A new flu vaccine is made each year to protect against the viruses that are likely to cause disease in the upcoming flu season. The vaccine can still provide some protection even when it doesn’t exactly match these viruses
Alert your vaccine provider if you have ever had: (1) an allergic reaction after a previous dose of influenza vaccine, (2) any severe, life-threatening allergies, or (3) Guillain-Barré Syndrome (also called GBS)
The single best way to prevent seasonal flu is to get vaccinated each year. There are several other healthy habits to help prevent flu:
Avoid close contact with people who are sick
Stay home when you are sick
Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing
Wash your hands often with soap and water
Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth
Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces
CDC Pink Book (Chapter 12: Influenza): https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/pubs/pinkbook/flu.html
CDC “Healthy Habits to Help Prevent Flu”: https://www.cdc.gov/flu/prevent/actions-prevent-flu.htm
CDC Flu Vaccine Information Sheet: https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/hcp/vis/vis-statements/flu.pdf