From fall 2017 to spring 2018, flu severity was considered high across all age groups in the United States. As of October 27, 2018, there were 185 flu-related deaths in children reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and about 80 percent of those children had not received a flu vaccine.
When is the right time to get vaccinated for the flu?
The flu virus circulates year-round, but it is most common from October through May, which is known as the “flu season.” The CDC recommends early flu vaccination because it takes two weeks for your body to build up antibodies to the flu virus. By getting your flu shot before the flu season starts, your body will be more likely to fight off the virus.
The flu vaccine is recommended for every person 6 months and older. You can’t get the flu from a flu shot, as there is nothing infectious or contagious in the vaccine. There also are safe options for people who are pregnant or who have a chronic health condition. Talk with your doctor about your options for vaccination if you have:
- A life-threatening allergy to the vaccine or ingredients in the vaccine, such as egg
- Flu-like symptoms or don’t feel well when the vaccine is offered
Get a flu shot every year
You need to be vaccinated for the flu every year because over time, your body becomes less effective at fighting the flu virus. Plus, every year the flu vaccine changes as researchers identify the strains most likely to be rapidly circulating each flu season. Flu vaccine manufacturers use that information to create a vaccine that is most likely to fight off those specific flu strains.
The effectiveness of the flu vaccine varies year to year. But your risk of getting a flu-related illness decreases by 40 to 60 percent when the vaccine covers circulating flu strains. Even if you get the flu after being vaccinated, you will have a less severe illness than if you had not been vaccinated. Recent studies have found:
- Kids who get vaccinated but still get sick are significantly less likely to die from influenza
- Adults hospitalized because of the flu are 59 percent less likely to need ICU-level care
- Those adults who do need ICU care spend an average of four fewer days in the hospital
Preventing the flu
Protecting yourself from the flu doesn’t stop with being vaccinated. Kids in particular can follow these precautions to help slow the spread of the flu virus:
- Wash your hands frequently with soap and water, or use an alcohol-based sanitizing solution
- Cover your nose and mouth when you cough or sneeze
- Avoid contact with sick people and if you are sick, recover at home for 24 hours after your fever is gone
- Regularly clean and disinfect surfaces that may be contaminated, including countertops, light switches and telephones
Antiviral medicines are available if you or your child have flu-like symptoms:
- Body aches and pains
- Sore throat
- Stuffy or runny nose
If you experience these symptoms, see your healthcare provider. Prescription antiviral drugs can decrease the length and severity of illness.