I don’t know about all you readers out there, but I’ve felt so inundated with coronavirus news the past few years that influenza (the flu) was put on my mind’s back burner. The coronavirus didn’t set fire in Iowa until a majority of the 2019-2020 flu season was over, but years later we are still tackling the two illnesses together this winter. Alongside the new bivalent Covid-19 boosters, we have a great opportunity to prepare for the flu by getting vaccinated now.
Each year, flu season leads to hundreds of thousands of illnesses, hospitalizations, and deaths worldwide. The flu is caused by influenza viruses that infect the nose, throat, and sometimes the lungs. It can cause mild to severe illness, and at times can lead to death. Flu is different from a cold and the coronavirus. The best way to prevent the flu is by getting an influenza vaccine each year.
After receiving the flu shot, it will take about two weeks before the disease-fighting antibodies have ramped up in the body. It’s important to not get the vaccination too early, which could leave you without coverage at the end of the season. It’s also important to not wait too long and become infected before the vaccine is effective in the body. Most health care professionals recommend getting a flu shot by the end of October.
While kids and older adults are at higher risk of suffering complications from the flu, everyone eligible over six months of age should get the vaccine and practice diligent hand-washing all season. That helps keeps the population healthier. This is especially important for those with chronic medical conditions like asthma, diabetes, or heart disease. Getting the flu can make those conditions worse or make recovery time longer.
The vaccine is safe for pregnant women and children over six months of age. Because the vaccine is derived from the virus being grown in eggs, people with severe egg allergies should talk with their provider first. Those with severe allergies to the influenza vaccine should not get the immunization. Additionally, people who suspect they may already have the flu or are ill should be evaluated by a health care provider first to discuss options. Otherwise, it’s time to make your appointment!