It's Flu Season
It’s that time of year! Flu season in the United States can begin in October and run as late as May. “Flu” is short for influenza, and influenza shouldn’t be taken lightly. For some, the flu means feeling awful and being laid up for days. For others, it’s a serious disease that can cause respiratory failure and possible hospitalization. During flu season, flu viruses can be spread quickly from person to person. But fortunately, the flu is preventable. By getting vaccinated, you’ll cut down your chances of catching and spreading the flu.
Everyone is vulnerable to flu-related complications, but the people who are most vulnerable are:
- Children younger than age 5, and especially children younger than age 2
- Adults age 65 and up
- Pregnant women and women up to two weeks after giving birth
- People with chronic health conditions such as asthma, COPD or heart disease
"Depending on the individual’s immune system, usually the flu shot is good for 4-6 months after immunization."
“Depending on the individual’s immune system, usually the flu shot is good for 4-6 months after immunization,” says Dr Leila Koleiny, family medicine physician at Lee’s Summit Family Care. “That’s why we tend to vaccinate in the fall, which gives relatively good coverage through late spring.” When you get your flu shot, your body develops antibodies to the flu viruses that researchers predict will be the most common that season. Since those flu viruses are continually changing, everyone older than 6 months of age should get vaccinated every year.
“While there is a live flu vaccination given nasally, the flu ‘shot’ itself is not,” says Dr. Koleiny. “The nasal vaccine is safe, although not recommended for certain populations such as those that are immune compromised, young children and pregnant females.” Since there are many vaccine options to choose from, it’s important to talk to your doctor about which vaccine is best for you.
You should get vaccinated because:
- You’ll be protected from getting sick from flu.
- People around you who are more vulnerable — older adults, people with chronic health conditions and young children, especially babies younger than 6 months of age — will be better protected from serious flu illness.
- If you do get sick, your illness may be milder.
- Risk of hospitalization is reduced. One study found that over the course of three flu seasons, flu vaccination lowered hospitalizations by 61 percent for people over age 50.
Some people hesitate to get a flu shot for fear that it will give them the disease. “You cannot get flu from the shot,” observes Dr. Koleiny. “While some people get mild flu symptoms such as body aches and low-grade fever after the vaccine, it is usually a sign of immune response to the vaccine as it ‘gears up’ to start protecting when it actually comes in contact with the influenza virus.”
So now that flu season is here, protect yourself from getting the flu and do your part to stop its spread. Influenza is a big deal to many members of your community. It’s more than the loss of productivity when you get hit with the flu — it can be life-threatening to some. Getting the flu shot is an easy and cost-effective way to stay safe.