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Get vaccinated now to prepare for flu season

Published in Author: Andrew Maloney,MD Author: Andrew Maloney, MD

It’s that time of year again. When school is back in-session and the weather gets cooler, we know flu season won’t be far away. Flu shots are now available so everyone can prepare for the coming season. CentraCare Health is now holding a number of flu vaccine clinics at a variety of locations. You also can contact your primary care clinic or your child’s pediatrician’s office to schedule your flu shot.

In our clinic, we get quite a few questions about the flu and the flu shot. Here are some answers to some of the most common ones:

Why is it important to get a flu shot? In a typical influenza season, recent studies have shown that getting your flu shot reduces your chances of getting ill by 50 to 60 percent. When you get your flu shot, you are doing more than just protecting yourself. You also are preventing the spread of the illness to those who are more vulnerable. This includes older people, those with chronic health conditions and young children — some of whom cannot get the flu shot.

Why is FluMist unavailable this year? Despite having been shown in previous years to be more effective than the flu shot, the last two years the flu nasal spray was found to have provided virtually no protection against the flu virus. Due to these findings, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recommended that only the flu shot be given during the 2016-2017 flu season. FluMist will not be available at any CentraCare Health flu vaccine clinic this season.

Who should get a flu shot? The CDC recommends that everyone over 6 months of age get their flu shot. Flu shots are also approved for those with chronic health conditions and for breastfeeding mothers. Expecting mothers can also get the flu shot at any time during their pregnancies.

When should you get a flu shot? You can get vaccinated at any time throughout the flu season. But it takes about two weeks from the time you get the shot until you are fully protected. So it’s best to get your flu shot early in the fall — so your body will be ready when the sickness becomes more common.

What other things can you do to prevent the spread of the flu? Common ways to prevent the spread of the flu include staying home when sick, covering your mouth and nose when you sneeze and frequent handwashing.

Not as many people are aware of how anti-viral drugs can help. If you do get the flu, these medications can make the illness milder and shorten the time you are sick. And some of these antiviral drugs are approved for pregnant women, children and babies. If you or your child get the flu and these options interest you, talk to your health care provider.