Flu season is just around the corner, and flu vaccines are starting to roll out again. But who should get a flu shot?
Everyone 6 months of age and older should get a flu shot each year.
This is especially important for those at the greatest risk of developing severe flu symptoms. The high-risk group of individuals for the flu includes pregnant people, older adults and young children. Also, if you have a condition like asthma, cancer, COPD, cystic fibrosis, diabetes, HIV/AIDS, kidney or liver disease or obesity, you’re also more likely to experience complications from the flu and should make it a priority to get your flu shot.
First, understand how the flu vaccine works.
The flu vaccine, and most any vaccine, contains the germs of the illness the shot protects you against. When the vaccine is introduced into your system, it makes your body produce special proteins that tell your immune system to attack the virus. These antibodies are what it would make if you were naturally exposed to the illness. The flu vaccine shouldn’t make you sick, though, because these germs have either been made much weaker or killed.
For most people, a single flu shot provides enough protection for the current flu season. However, this protection naturally decreases over time.
The vaccine also changes each year depending on which flu viruses that researchers think will be circulating. Flu viruses adapt rapidly, and the vaccine you received last year may not provide the protection you need against current viruses. This is why you should plan to get vaccinated each year.
Next, know your flu vaccine options.
The flu vaccine is available in two delivery methods: injection influenza vaccines and a nasal spray flu vaccine. The nasal spray isn’t suitable for the following groups of people:
- Adults older than 50 years old
- Children and teens who are taking aspirin or medication containing a salicylate
- Children who have had asthma or wheezing in the last year
- Children younger than 2 years old
- Individuals with weakened immune systems
- Pregnant women
If you have concerns about whether or not the flu shot is for you, talk to your doctor. For example, some people with medical conditions, like egg allergies or a history of Guillain-Barre Syndrome, should definitely consult a provider before getting a flu vaccine. If you have had a severe or life-threatening allergic reaction to the vaccine or its contents, which might include gelatin, egg proteins, antibiotics or others, it may not be safe for you to get a vaccine. Your health care provider can explain the options and recommend a vaccination plan.
Don’t forget to time your flu shot carefully.
It takes about two weeks for your body to develop the antibodies it needs to protect you from the flu. Therefore, you should get vaccinated before the virus starts spreading widely in your community. If you get the shot too early, you might not have enough protection to last through the end of flu season. But, wait too long, and you risk infection.
The best time to get your flu shot is before the end of October. However, that doesn’t mean you should skip the vaccine if you wait longer. Some flu seasons can last into May.
Now that you know who should get a flu shot, make a plan to get yours! The flu vaccine is especially important when it comes to keeping you, as well as those around you, safe.