With fall weather also comes the beginning of flu season. Learn how you can protect yourself this year.
Flu season has arrived! Protect yourself and your family with this brief guide to flu prevention.
What is the flu?
Influenza, also known as “the flu,” is a contagious respiratory virus caused by A and B influenza strains. Flu symptoms usually come on suddenly and can include a fever, cough, muscle aches, fatigue, headaches, sore throat, runny nose and vomiting (more common in children than adults). The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that the flu has resulted in between 9.2 million and 35.6 million illnesses each year in the US since 2010. While you should avoid sick people and wash your hands frequently to slow the spread of the flu, vaccination remains the most effective way to protect yourself against the virus.
Who should get a flu shot?
The CDC generally recommends that people older than 6 months receive a flu vaccine. It’s particularly important that patients at high risk for flu complications get vaccinated. This group includes young children, adults aged 65 years and older, pregnant women and patients with certain chronic medical conditions. The flu shot may not be safe for everyone, though. The CDC states that the following groups of patients should not receive a flu vaccine: children younger than 6 months old, people with severe, life-threatening allergies to the flu vaccine or any of its ingredients, people who have an allergy to eggs or other vaccine ingredients, people who have ever had Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS) or people who are not feeling well.
When does flu season begin?
While flu season is unpredictable, it usually begins each year in October or November, peaks from December to March, and can possibly last until May. The CDC recommends that people get a flu vaccine by the end of October, if possible. It takes around two weeks after vaccination for antibodies to develop in the body that protect against the flu.
Where can I get a flu shot?
You can get vaccinated at your doctor’s office or local pharmacy clinic. Enter your zipcode here to find a flu clinic near you.
Are there any differences among the flu vaccines available this season?
Yes, the main difference among available flu vaccines is the number of strains that they protect patients against. Trivalent vaccines protect against three strains of the flu, while quadrivalent vaccines protect against four strains. Trivalent vaccines, like Fluvirin, protect against two influenza A subtypes and a B subtype. Quadrivalent vaccines, like Fluarix, guard patients against two influenza type A subtypes and two type B subtypes. In addition to traditional vaccines, the nasal flu spray vaccine (FluMist) is also available this year. Talk to your doctor about the best choice for you.
Why do I need to get a flu shot every year?
You need to get a flu shot each year for two reasons. First, the antibodies against the virus produced after getting vaccinated decrease over time, leaving you susceptible to contracting the flu. Second, new vaccines are released each year to protect people from the most prevalent strains of the flu for that season.
If I get the flu, how can I reduce the symptoms and duration?
Because the flu is a virus, it can’t be treated with antibiotics. However, several antiviral drugs are available that can help shorten its length and severity. Two examples are oseltamivir phosphate (Tamiflu) and zanamivir (Relenza), which you can obtain with a prescription from your doctor. You can also save when you purchase these medications with Blink. They work best when taken within 48 hours of symptom onset but can potentially work if you take them after this period. While these drugs can help to lessen flu symptoms and duration, vaccination is still the most effective way to prevent the flu altogether.
This article is not medical advice. It is intended for general informational purposes and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your physician or dial 911.
Blink Health is not insurance. Blink Health Administration, LLC, 233 Spring Street, 8th Floor East, New York, NY 10013, (844) 366–2211, www.blinkhealth.com