Schedule Your Flu Shot in October to Protect Yourself and Your Loved Ones This Flu Season
Seasonal influenza, more commonly known as the flu, is a highly contagious respiratory infection of the nose, throat, and lungs caused by the influenza virus that tends to strike when the temperatures start to drop and people gather indoors.
Symptoms of the flu may include:
- sore throat
- runny nose
- stuffy nose
- muscle aches
Symptoms vary from person to person and depending on the strain in circulation in a given year, but they tend to hit fast, often with severe headaches and high fever. Severe cases can also cause serious complications like pneumonia, but even a mild case of the flu can keep you in bed for weeks.
Why It’s Important to Get a Flu Shot
The flu spreads easily from person to person, especially in crowded spaces like schools and hospitals. You can get the flu by breathing in the droplets an infected person projects in the air with every sneeze or cough, and by touching surfaces that have been contaminated with the virus and then touching your eyes, nose, or mouth.
People who are healthy usually recover from the flu on their own within a week, but others are at higher risk of developing potentially severe complications. That’s why it’s important for everyone to do their part to reduce the spread of respiratory illnesses like the flu, starting with getting an annual vaccination.
People at higher risk of complications from the flu include:
- Children under the age of five, and especially under the age of two
- Adults 65 and over
- Pregnant women
- Residents in long-term care facilities and nursing homes
- People with chronic medical conditions like asthma, heart disease, or diabetes
Getting a flu shot triggers your body to produce antibodies that can keep you from getting sick, and it protects you from severe illness even if you do catch the flu. By getting a flu shot, you also make it more difficult for the virus to spread from person to person, which reduces the odds that infants who aren’t old enough for the vaccine and at-risk groups contract the flu virus.
When Should I Get My Flu Shot?
Flu season runs from October to May, and getting your flu shot early in the season—ideally in early October—provides better protection. It takes about two weeks for the flu shot to protect you from the influenza virus, so it’s best to get vaccinated as early as possible once the year’s flu shot becomes available. That way your body has the time to make the antibodies that will protect it from the dominant influenza strains in circulation that year.
Who Can Have the Flu Shot?
The flu vaccine is recommended for anyone over 6 months of age. Infants younger than 6 months old can’t get the flu shot and are in a higher risk group, but can get some protection from the virus if the other members of the household have their vaccinations.
For children, dosing of the flu vaccine varies depending on age and vaccination history:
- Under the age of 9, children who have never had the vaccine or have only had one dose before July 2021 need two doses, one month apart.
- Kids over the age of 9, or under the age of 9 who have already had two doses of the vaccine before July 2021, need one dose.
Where to Get Your Flu Shot
It only takes a few minutes to get a flu shot, and you can get yours at your local pharmacy, doctor’s office, walk-in clinic, or by searching the Vaccine Finder for a location near you. Increasingly, employers and schools are offering flu shots too! You can read about the different kinds of flu vaccines on the CDC website or talk to your local pharmacist about the options available in your location.
More Ways to Protect Yourself From the Flu
The same precautions you mastered during the Covid pandemic can help prevent upper respiratory infections like the flu from infecting you or spreading. Wearing a mask and keeping your distance from people who are sick are simple ways to protect yourself and others from viruses like the flu and Covid that spread through infected droplets.
Developing strong hand-washing habits can also keep you healthy through flu season. Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds regularly, and use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer when you’re unable to wash your hands. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands.
Other ways of fighting the spread of the flu:
- Stay home when you think you’re sick
- Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue or sneeze into your elbow
- Disinfect heavily trafficked surfaces like door knobs and remote controls regularly
Want to learn more about flu vaccinations? Read our blogs about how being in a good mood when you get your flu shot might make it more effective and why it’s recommended to get your child the flu shot. For more health-related topics, tips, and recipes, make sure to follow along with our Hospitality Health ER blog and find us on Facebook and Instagram.