What should I do to prepare for this flu season?
CDC recommends a yearly flu vaccine for everyone 6 months of age and older as the first and most important step in protecting against this serious disease. People should begin getting vaccinated soon after flu vaccine becomes available, ideally by October, to ensure that as many people as possible are protected before flu season begins. In addition to getting vaccinated, you can take everyday preventive steps like staying away from sick people and washing your hands to reduce the spread of germs. If you are sick with flu, stay home from work or school to prevent spreading flu to others.
What should I do to protect my loved ones from flu this season?
Encourage your loved ones to get vaccinated as soon as vaccine becomes available in their communities, preferably by October. It takes about two weeks after vaccination for antibodies to develop in the body and provide protection against the flu. Vaccination is especially important for people at high risk for serious flu complications, and their close contacts.
When will flu activity begin and when will it peak?
The timing of flu is very unpredictable and can vary from season to season. Flu activity most commonly peaks in the U.S. in January or February. However, seasonal flu activity can begin as early as October and continue to occur as late as May.
Where can I get a flu vaccine?
Flu vaccines will be available in our office Mid-September (as soon as they become available) on a walk in basis from 8:30-4:30pm Monday-Friday and 6-8pm Tuesday and Thursday. Please be sure to have your insurance card ready.
You can also ask for the shot during a regularly scheduled appointment.
For Medicare patients with Part B (which includes all Medicare Advantage plans) the flu shot is completely covered. No copayment and no deductible.
Private insurance coverage varies, and we must bill you for any portion that is not covered by your insurance. To check your coverage, call your insurer. Usually, the number to call is on your insurance card.
If you don’t have insurance, the charge is $28, which you must pay when you receive the shot.
By Doug Lefton, MD
This season’s flu shot is now available, and you might as well get it soon. Although the peak month for the flu is February, flu season sometimes starts as early as October.
I’m a big believer in the flu shot. I’ve seen some pretty miserable patients with the flu. Often this highly contagious disease just causes cold symptoms, but sometimes the cold symptoms are severe, with high fevers, muscle aches, sore throat, nasal congestion and hacking cough.
Particularly in more vulnerable patients, such as the elderly, young children, or people with chronic diseases, these symptoms can lead to pneumonia, and even death. Thousands of Americans die each year from the flu; 90% of them are elderly.
Because of its safety and effectiveness, the flu shot is now recommended for virtually everyone over age 6 months.
Despite the benefits of the flu shot, I do have patients who don’t want it. Most of them say one of two things:
- “I don’t get the flu.” To which I say, “Did you have a bad cold last year? That might have been the flu.”
- “I heard the shot can give you the flu.” This is not true, because the virus in the vaccine is killed virus. What is true is that flu shots are given in the fall, which is also cold season. So some people coincidentally come down with a cold at some point after their flu shots—and blame it on the shot.
I am going to get the flu shot this year, and so will members of my family. I hope you will, too.
Flu shot Q & A
Who is at particular risk from the flu?
People under age 5 or over age 50, which covers a lot of people. Also at high risk are people with diabetes, kidney, lung, heart, or hematologic disease; and those who are immunosuppressed (from disease or medications); and pregnant women.
Are there special concerns for children?
Children under 5, and particularly those under age 2, are at higher risk for serious disease. Each year an estimated 20,000 American children under age 5 are hospitalized with the flu. If it is their first flu shot, children between ages 6 months and 8 years need a booster, given at least 28 days after the initial shot. Children under 6 months are too young to get the shot.
I’m young, and pretty healthy. Why should I bother getting this vaccination?
Do you have young children at home? Do you come in contact with the elderly, or people with chronic diseases, who are more at risk from the flu? If so, you can protect them by protecting yourself with a flu shot. Remember, you can be spreading the flu virus a day before you even start coming down with symptoms.
Is the shot safe for pregnant women?
Yes; in fact it is recommended for pregnant women, because pregnant women more prone to severe illness from the flu. Pregnant women with the flu also have a greater chance of serious problems for their unborn babies, including premature labor and delivery. Thus the shot protects the mother, the unborn, and the newborn. The flu shot has been given to millions of pregnant women.
Who should NOT get the flu shot?
Talk to your doctor first if you have an allergy to eggs or if you have had a rare disease called Guillain–Barré Syndrome (a severe paralytic illness). If you are sick with a fever you should postpone the shot. If you have a mild illness with no fever you can still have the shot.
When should the flu shot be given?
As soon as possible, because flu season can start as early as October, and it takes two weeks for the vaccine to become effective. However, you can still benefit from the shot through the winter, as flu season can last until May.
How effective is the shot?
Each year the vaccine makers try to predict which strains of flu will circulate in the coming season, and include those strains in the vaccine. Sometimes their predictions turn out to be wrong, and the vaccine is less helpful or not helpful at all.
What are the side effects of the shot?
Possible side effects include redness or swelling where the shot was given, low-grade fever and muscle aches. Serious reactions are very rare and usually occur in people with severe allergic reactions to eggs.
Why do I need the flu shot each year?
- The immunity produced by the shot wanes over time.
- Each year the ingredients in the shot are changed to reflect the predicted strains of the coming season’s flu.