The single and most effective way to protect against the flu is to take the flu vaccine every year.
Why should you get vaccinated against the flu
Influenza is a serious condition, which results in a high number of hospitalizations and can sometimes even lead to death. Even though children below 2-years-old, elderly people, pregnant mothers, and individuals with diseases like diabetes are at a higher risk of contracting influenza, healthy people can also contract the virus and get very sick. According to a study done by the CDC from 1976 to 2007, the number of flu related deaths range from about 3,000 to 49,000 people.
The flu season in United States begins in early October and lasts until May. During this season, the highest number of deaths from the flu are reported to be individuals above the age of 65-years-old.
A seasonal yearly vaccine against the influenza virus is the best way to keep you away from the flu. When more people get vaccinated, the spread of the disease will also reduce drastically. After all, prevention is better than a cure.
How does the flu shot work?
The flu vaccine contains a live but weakened (attenuated) influenza virus. Once you get the flu vaccine, your body will produce antibodies against these weak vaccines and will develop immunity against these viruses. This process will take about two weeks. So, if you get exposed to an influenza virus, you will not catch the flu because your body has been immunized and is ready to fight against the infection instantaneously.
Research will indicate what virus is more common in the upcoming season and a flu vaccine against that virus will be produced.
A traditional flu vaccine called the trivalent vaccine consists of three weakened viruses: Influenza A (H1N1), Influenza A (H3N2) and Influenza B virus, and each will provide protection against all of these three flu viruses.
Can everyone get vaccinated?
Everyone above 6-months-old and free of allergies to the flu vaccine are safe to get vaccinated against the flu. Babies younger than 6-months-old are too young to receive the flu shot. However, they will be protected by the antibodies they receive from the mother’s milk. So, a flu vaccine for these babies is really not necessary.
If you have an allergy to any of the ingredients, which are used to manufacture the flu vaccine, you are not advised to take it. Speak with your doctor for more information.
Pregnant women and people with chronic health conditions are also able to get the flu shot.
When should you get vaccinated?
You should get your flu shot as soon as it is available. The flu season begins in early October. So, it is better to take the vaccine as early as possible before the fall, as it will take at least two weeks to be effective.
The influenza virus will be circulating around the community even in the middle of the season; therefore, flu vaccinations will be continuously available throughout the season.
Visit your doctor to get your flu vaccination.
How effective is the flu vaccine?
The flu vaccine is synthesized to cater towards the most common influenza virus in the upcoming season. So if the virus in your vaccine and the virus in the environment match closely, the vaccine will be highly effective. Even if the viruses do not closely match, the vaccine can protect some individuals against the flu and its complications. However, you should keep in mind that there is a possibility to catch the flu even after being vaccinated. The capacity of the flu vaccine to protect a person from the flu varies according to the individual’s age and health status.