** the following is based on my opinion that those who can should get the flu shot! It's just my opinion! I don't know about you but I can't believe that it's already time to start thinking about flu shots and flu season. It seems like it was just here!! Sadly, it was. And it is back again. As much as we don't want to it is indeed time to start thinking about flu season. As well as how we are going to protect ourself and our families and whether we will be getting a flu shot. But really, when does the flu season truly become a worry? When does the actual flu season start in the United States? According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), there are seasonal influenza (flu) viruses detected all year long. However actual flu cases are most common to be seen during the fall and winter. Clearly no one can predict the exact timing, duration or even the strain of the flu season. That being said they can assume when flu activity will begin and end based on previous years of data. So based on that data, in most years flu activity usually begins sometime in OCTOBER. And will peak between December and February, and crazily enough, activity can be seen as late as May! So basically, you better start planning how you are going to protect you and your family NOW. That being said let's take a little closer look at statistics regarding flu cases and the facts of the flu shot!
The Centers for Disease Control estimates, that during the 2015-2016 flu season, 34 million people were infected with the flu, and as many as 710,000 people were hospitalized and nearly 65,000 died. That also means a lot was spent on visits to primary doctors, Urgent Cares and on Emergency Room visits, as well as on cold medicine, Tamiflu and expenses that many feel could have been avoided. In most cases Flu shots probably would have prevented some of those hospitalizations, deaths and many of other flu sufferers that suffered at home. For others like the immunocompromised, chronically ill ,elderly or those that got a strain that was not prevented by the shot, the shots are not always effective.
Flu vaccines (shots) are usually available year round. But you will begin seeing and hearing more about flu shots at the pharmacy, doctors office, or on TV in late summer/early fall and continuing through winter. The flu vaccine you got last year is not the same as the one that be available this year. Unlike other vaccines the the flu vaccines change yearly, so shots should be done annually for your best protection. Why do they change every year? Basically because the shots are made to prevent those who receive the shot from getting sick from the flu strains in the shot. That being said there are years where their predictions are not right thus making the vaccine less effective. Some years they do a really good in predicting what strains will be seen, thus what strains they should vaccinate against, and other years, not so much. Last year the vaccines were less likely to prevent the flu that was widely seen in the US, mainly because the strains in the vaccines were not the strains of the flu that were being seen in the US last flu season. As some would say they didn't quite hit the nail on the head with that one. But in all honesty the flu vaccine is very safe and is overall the most effective means of preventing or lessening how severe a case of the flu could be if you were to contract it.
Even if you hear about getting the flu shot on the radio it from your doctor in August you don't want to get it that early. When it comes to flu shots "too early" really is a thing, if you get it before the flu season even starts then it will not be effective and won't protect you the entire flu season. Generally speaking you and your doctor can decide when is the best time for you to receive your shot. But the best time to start getting flu vaccines generally speaking is mid-September to early- October. On the flip side it's never to late in the season to get a vaccine. As I said before the flu season usually ends with winter but cases may be seen through May!! So even if you've remained healthy but decide in January or February to get one that is okay. You will be protected the rest of the normal season and through the end of that late season as well!
The flu is highly, HIGHLY contagious!! And very VERY easily spread. Did you know that it can be spread to others who are up to SIX FEET away from an infected person sneezing, coughing or JUST TALKING!!!!! And what's even scarier is that you or anyone can be contagious even before you start to show symptoms.
So what can you do? How can you protect yourself and others from the flu this year?!? Well, it's actually pretty simple really. The big one is that you can wash your hands often! If you think you've washed your hands enough, wash your hands MORE!! You also need to avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth, if you do touch those areas.....you got it. Wash your hands! The biggest and most important thing you can do during flu season, really if we are honest anytime of year, stay home if you are feeling sick even if you think it's much a cold. By doing this you are protecting others from the spread of the flu or any other germ or bug you might have. This may not be important for most of the population, but it's VERY important for those who are most susceptible to the flu.
The population that is most at-risk for catching the flu, for complications of the flu and even hospitalizations or death from the flu, are those over 65, the very young (infants under 6months), as well as people like us with little to no functioning immune system. At least the immunocompromised, and the elderly can have the vaccine and have some chance at fighting off Influenza should they catch it. But anyone under 6 months does not have that chance. As infants under 6 months of age cannot be given the vaccine. But you are NEVER to old for a shot. In fact there are actually high dose shots that encourage a better immune response available for those aged 50-65 and an even higher dose available for those over 65.
One thing people don't understand is that the flu for someone who is chronically ill or has a severely compromised immune system can be deadly. A "bug" that might put a "normal" person in bed for three or four days could be potentially deadly for someone like me. I don't say this to be dramatic. I say this to make you think. My immune system is always busy fighting my own body and my lungs especially, so it doesn't pick up these infections like most normal immune systems would. The normal immune system picks up the big as soon as it enters the system. But for someone with an autoimmune disease or on chemo with no working immune system that bug may never be "picked up" by the very weakened immune system until it's way too late. So please, I beg of you, if you have family or friends who fall into the categories I mentioned and you are thinking about skipping the shot, please don't. It's much easier to get the shot than it is to bury your friend or family member.
I know not everyone is able to get the shot, and that's okay. Some people have life-threatening allergies to vaccines or it's ingredients. Others have or will develop a condition called Guillain-Barré syndrome. And newborns under six-months can't get the flu vaccine. These groups of people have to rely on a different kind of immunity. They have to rely on what's called herd immunity. Herd immunity is the idea when most people around them the flu vaccine, it helps to protect the family, or population as a whole.
Honestly, if you've had the real Influenza once you will NEVER forget it! And chances are that those who have had it will take the extra effort to get the vaccine in every year in the future. Because the flu is AWFUL! Symptoms can include, but aren't limited to: sudden onset high fever, severe body aches, on top of all the symptoms associated with a cold. You may not be worried about getting the shot for yourself. But think about getting one for those around you.
I feel like we've covered enough of the the basics to get you through the first part of the flu season. It's awful, you don't want it. And you just need to wash your hands all....the....time!!!! In all honesty, what you need to know is that the flu ends you YOU (U). What I mean by saying that is there are two simple and easy ways to prevent influenza and the spread of the disease is to get your yearly flu shot, and KEEP YOUR BUTT HOME WHEN YOU ARE SICK during flu season. In all honesty flu shots aren't for everyone. But if you take nothing away from everything else I have written take away this. If you live with or come in close contact with someone who is immunocompromised, is chronically ill, is elderly, or has a new born baby at home GET THE SHOT! In those cases it's not for you it's for them. A case of the flu might put you in bed for three days. But for a person in any one in the groups I just mentioned could die from the flu! So just think before you decide not to get the shot!