Don’t Forget Your Flu Shot!
Fall is here, bringing with it pumpkin spice-flavored everything, warm sweaters and football games. It’s also the start of cold and flu season, making a flu shot an important part of your fall to-do list.
Millions of Americans are affected by flu viruses each year. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that somewhere between 26 and 50 million Americans had the flu in the 2022–2023 flu season.
Each fall, you can take steps to prevent getting the flu, starting with getting a seasonal flu shot.
Why You Need the Flu Vaccine Every Year
You got a flu shot last year, so do you really need a new one? Yes! The influenza virus responsible for causing the flu regularly mutates, developing new strains.
Because of that, flu vaccines evolve, too. They’re reformulated each year to match the influenza strains predicted to be most common during the upcoming flu season. Most of the time, the annual flu shots are a fairly strong match—traditionally, the flu shot is up to 60% effective in preventing the flu altogether.
If you get the flu even though you’re vaccinated, the antibodies from the flu shot will still help protect your health and you’re likely to experience only mild symptoms that improve within a few days.
When to Get the Flu Shot
If you have not gotten your flu shot yet this year, it’s time. Healthcare experts recommend getting the flu vaccine each year by the end of October. This gives the vaccine time to help your body build up immunity before the flu season kicks into high gear in the colder months.
The CDC recommends that nearly everyone age 6 months and older be vaccinated against the flu. Most people need only a single dose of the flu vaccine each year, but children younger than age 9 receive a two-dose flu vaccine the first year they’re vaccinated.
Because older adults are at a higher risk of complications from the flu, the CDC recommends they receive a quadrivalent vaccine, which protects against four different influenza strains.
You can receive this year’s updated COVID-19 vaccine at the same time as your flu shot. CDC research has found that receiving the two vaccines at the same time is safe and effective.
Older adults may also want to consider also getting a dose of the newly approved respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) vaccine, which is recommended for those age 60 and older.
Whether you get only your flu shot or receive the flu shot along with other vaccines, you may experience some mild side effects, such as injection site pain or muscle aches. These side effects should be mild and fleeting, but talk with a medical provider if you’re uncertain or your symptoms linger.
Flu shots are now available at local pharmacies throughout the community. Get one today.
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