Prepare now to the avoid flu this season

Flu season is just around the corner. In Kansas, it typically begins in October or November and peaks in January or February. Because it takes about two weeks after vaccination for antibodies to develop in the body and provide protection against the flu, now is the time to get your flu shot. 

Influenza is a serious disease. It affects everyone differently. For one person it could just be a fever and achy body, but for another, it could mean hospitalization or even death. We recommended everyone over the age of 6 months have the vaccination.

Flu shotWhy should I be vaccinated?

  • It helps protect you against catching the flu. Even healthy people can get very sick!
  • It helps protect people at high risk from developing serious health complications from the flu.
  • It helps limit the spread of the flu in our community. During flu season, flu viruses are circulating in the population. A vaccine reduces the chances that you will get seasonal flu and spread it to others.

Who should be vaccinated?

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommends everyone over the age of 6 months be vaccinated. However, some populations are at a higher risk (and should definitely have the vaccination):

  • People with chronic medical conditions, such as asthma, lung disease, heart disease and diabetes
  • Pregnant women
  • People age 65 and older (90 percent of flu deaths occur in this age group)
  • All people who live with or care for others in this high-risk category

Who should not be vaccinated?

  • Anyone with an egg allergy should talk with their physician. New vaccines that are safe for those with egg allergies are available.
  • Those who have had a severe reaction to a previous influenza vaccination
  • Infants younger than 6 months
  • People who have a history of Guillain-Barre syndrome or currently have an illness which includes fever should consult their physician before being vaccinated

How does the flu vaccine work?

Flu vaccines cause antibodies to develop in the body. These antibodies provide protection against infection with the viruses that are in the vaccine.

The seasonal flu vaccine protects against the three influenza viruses that research indicates will be most common during the upcoming season: Influenza B viruses, influenza A (H1N1) viruses, and influenza A (H3N2) viruses. Each year, one flu virus of each kind is used to produce seasonal influenza vaccine.

Do I need a vaccine every year?

Yes. Flu viruses are constantly changing. It’s not unusual for new flu viruses to appear each year. The antibodies you acquired from last year’s vaccination may not be effective against this year’s strain. The flu vaccine is formulated each year to keep up with the flu viruses as they change.

Additionally, the body’s immunity to influenza viruses declines over time. Receiving the vaccine annually provides the best protection against influenza throughout the flu season.

Contact your primary family physician and schedule your flu vaccination today.  A nasal spray flu vaccine, which is sprayed into a person’s nose instead of being given as a shot, is an alternative for healthy people between the ages of 2 and 49 who are not pregnant.

About Matthew Meschke, DO

I am a family medicine and sports medicine physician at Via Christi Clinic in Andover, Kan.
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