4 things to know about this year’s flu vaccination
This time each year, the change of weather not only brings a nip in the air, but possibly a bite to your immune system. The season isn’t just fall, but the dreaded flu season it brings.
Experts, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, say most U.S. flu activity occurs in January and February, but agree preparation for the season should begin as early as October. The best way to be fully prepared to best avoid the fever, aches and coughs brought on by the flu virus is to do your best to prevent it by receiving a flu vaccination.
This year, there a several things you should know about the flu and its prevention, says Dr. James Malow, infection control specialist at Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center in Chicago.
- Get your flu vaccination early. For optimal coverage for the full flu season, Dr. Malow recommends getting your vaccination in the fall before the flu season reaches its’ peak.
- Know your vaccinations. This year, there will be several options for flu vaccination, including:
- Two different traditional shots covering either the three or four most common strains of influenza predicted to hit this year.
- The high-dose flu shot for people age 65 and over, which contains three of the most-predicted flu strains for the season.
- The intradermal shot for adults ages 18 to 65, mainly for the needle-phobic, as it’s injected into the skin rather than the muscle.
- Two new shots free of egg products for those allergic to eggs.
- The nasal spray, which is the only vaccination made with the live, weakened flu virus, and recommended for those 2 to 49 years of age who are not pregnant.
- Don’t be fooled. Dr. Malow says the belief that getting a flu vaccination actually causes the illness is a myth. The flu vaccination cannot make you sick, he says, because most contain dead virus. Even the nasal spray option, which includes a live virus, is so weak that it can’t possibly cause the illness in an otherwise healthy person.
- See your doctor. Your primary care physician is the best place to start to determine the best vaccination option for you. The vaccination is also offered widely at drug stores, clinics and community health departments. Not all locations offer all options, so be sure to check with them first.
And be sure to take other precautions to avoid getting sick this flu season, including frequent hand washing and avoiding direct contact with those you know are ill.
“Though the best, single-most important step you can take to prevent getting the flu is to get your vaccination, frequent hand washing is a must during the flu season,” Dr. Malow says. “There are many other cold weather illnesses out there, so it’s best to defend yourself as well as you can.”
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