According to the CDC, the best way to help protect against the flu is to receive an annual flu vaccine. Influenza is a disease caused by a virus that can be potentially serious and lead to hospitalization and sometimes even death. Every flu season is different, and the infection can affect people differently, but vaccinations have been shown to have benefits such as reducing the risk of flu illnesses, hospitalizations, and the risk of flu-related death in children.
Vaccines work by causing antibodies to develop in the body to fight against the respective disease. Flu vaccines work in the same way, and antibodies begin to develop about two weeks after vaccination. Traditional flu vaccines work to protect against three flu viruses and are called “trivalent” vaccines. There are also flu vaccines made to protect against four flu viruses called “quadrivalent” vaccines. Both vaccines are currently available, and no preference is expressed for one over the other.
The CDC recommends that everyone six months of age and older receive the flu vaccine. Vaccination is especially important for people who are at particularly high risk of serious complications from the illness, such as children younger than five, adults 65 years or older, and pregnant women. There are some individuals for whom a flu shot would not be recommended, though this case is rare. Children younger than six months of age and people with an allergy to the flu vaccine or ingredients in it should not receive the vaccine. It is advisable to talk to your doctor before getting the vaccine.
For the vaccine to be most effective, it is best to receive it before the flu begins to spread in your community. The CDC recommends getting a flu shot by the end of October; it takes about two weeks for the antibodies that protect against flu to develop in the body. Even if the vaccine is received later than October, it can still be beneficial. Check with your doctor’s office to see if the flu vaccine is offered. If not, they should be available at many clinics, health departments, and pharmacies. Sometimes, employers and schools may offer them as well.
To protect yourself and those around you from the flu, consider getting a flu shot this season.