With colder weather upon us, the risk of catching the cold or flu rises, especially as the air becomes drier. Getting a flu shot is a recommended way of combating your risk of sickness from the flu.
Uma Savanoor, MD, ProMedica OccuHealth, says getting the flu vaccine may prevent you from getting the flu. But even if you do get it, it can make your symptoms milder.
In addition, your flu shot can help protect those around you. “When the major portion of the community is immunized against a contagious disease, such as the flu, most members will be protected against the disease and there is little opportunity for an outbreak,” explains Dr. Savanoor. “When there is less opportunity for an outbreak, then those who are more vulnerable but cannot get the flu shot for medical reasons will be protected.”
Those who may not be able to get the flu vaccine may include babies, the elderly and those with sudden chronic health conditions (such as cancer, or immunocompromised patients).
Because there haven’t been any flu outbreaks in our area yet, it’s too early to tell how well this year’s flu vaccine will match the flu strain(s) that will affect our area. However, according to the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC), the vaccine is developed based on the “viruses that research indicates will be most common during the upcoming season.”
Ryan Szepiela, MD, a rehabilitation/sports medicine doctor with ProMedica Physicians, says that because not all of the viruses can be included in the vaccine, “researchers try to come up with the most common viruses in the area” for the flu vaccine.
According to Dr. Savanoor, a four-strain flu vaccine is available this year, which offers more coverage. When common flu viruses match the vaccine, the vaccine reduces the risk of flu illness by about 50-60% among the overall population according to the CDC.
Dr. Szepiela explains that vaccines are recommended yearly for those 6 months and older without medical concerns. October through November is the best time to receive the vaccine because that’s when flu season typically begins.
• An annual flu shot is recommended for everyone over 6 months of age.
• The nasal spray flu vaccine is not recommended this year.
• A four-strain flu vaccine may provide you with the best protection.
• You cannot get the flu from the flu vaccine.
One notable difference to this year’s recommendations is that the CDC is not recommending the use of the nasal spray flu vaccine during 2016-2017 because it was found to have low effectiveness in flu prevention.
“Everybody should get the flu shot vaccine unless they have a major complication,” reiterates Dr. Savanoor. “It helps protect you and others around you and the benefits of a flu vaccine far, far outweigh the side effects, which are very minimal. You cannot get the flu from the flu vaccine.”
Lastly, Dr. Szepiela recommends talking with your healthcare provider about the flu vaccine and your options.
For more information about the flu vaccine, visit the CDC’s website.