The arrival of October also signals that it’s time to get a flu vaccine. The Centers for Disease Control, or CDC, recommend getting a flu vaccine before flu season begins spreading in the community. Because it takes an estimated two weeks after a shot for antibodies that protect against flu to develop in the body, it’s important to get the shot as early as possible.
October is the optimal time to get the vaccination, but because the flu season continues well into the new year, it can still be beneficial to get a shot later in the year if necessary.
The flu vaccine can:
- Reduce flu illnesses and reduce the risk of flu hospitalization, ICU admission and even death in children
- Be a preventative tool for people with chronic health conditions
- Protect pregnant women – and can even protect the baby from flu infection for several months after birth
- Make your illness milder if you do get sick
The CDC warns that there are many different flu viruses and they are constantly changing. The CDC reviews which of the major viruses will be the most common, and vaccines are developed against the top three or four.
While this month starts the season, the activity often peaks between December and February, and it can last as late as May.
It is important to remember that the flu is not just a cold – it’s a serious illness. The CDC classified 2017-2018 a high severity season with high levels of outpatient clinic and emergency department visits for influenza-like illness, high influenza-related hospitalization rates and widespread influenza activity across the United States for an extended period.
Since 2010, CDC estimates that flu has resulted in between 140,000 and 710,000 hospitalizations each year. The Center also estimates that influenza-related deaths in the U.S. range from a low of 12,000 deaths during the 2011-12 season to a high of 56,000 deaths during the 2012-13 flu season. To put that in perspective, that higher fatality level is equivalent to the entire population of the Lompoc Valley and outlying regions.
With such stark numbers, the CDC recommends an annual flu vaccine for everyone 6 months of age and older as the most important step toward protecting against the illness.
In addition to the vaccine, there are other simple ways to protect yourself. During flu season, stay away from sick people and wash your hands to reduce the spread of germs. If you determine you have the flu, stay home from work or school.
If you do get sick, you will usually recover in a few days, or up to two weeks. You do need to be aware that secondary ear and sinus infections may occur, and pneumonia is a serious flu complication.
The CDC understands that some people may be opposed to getting the flu shot, and is emphasizing a few key facts to try and encourage people to get vaccinated:
- A flu vaccine cannot give you flu. The most common side effects from a flu shot are soreness, redness and/or swelling where the shot was given, fever, and/or muscle aches. These side effects are not flu. If you do experience side effects, they are usually mild and short-lived, especially when compared to symptoms from a bad case of flu.
- Flu vaccines are among the safest medical products in use. Hundreds of millions of Americans have safely received flu vaccines over the past 50 years. Extensive research supports the safety of flu vaccines. CDC and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) closely monitor the safety of vaccines approved for use in the U.S