January is here, meaning it’s way too late to be giving Christmas gifts even belatedly or ringing in the New Year, but dealing with the flu? Welcome to the height of the flu season, which kicked off in October but is still out there looking for new victims. The trick is to do what you can to avoid any flu virus that might have your name on it. As they say, let’s be careful out there.
When it comes to the flu, you’re not out of the ‘danger zone’ yet in terms of being clear of any chance of catching the flu, but it’s also not too late to get a flu shot. This year’s viruses are still out there knocking on people’s doors, and in some cases leaving their imprint on door knobs (many people still don’t properly wash their hands so as to steer clear of harmful bacteria, and they think nothing of spreading the virus).
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) – the real experts when it comes to tracking and spreading helpful information about the flu each year – influenza activity starts to ramp up in October and November each year with flu activity peaking between December and February, and it can continue as late as May. With that in mind, January is not too late to be getting your flu shot, allowing for the fact that it takes about two weeks following your vaccination for the anti-flu antibodies to develop in the body.
Things to Know About Flu Vaccines
The CDC offers loads of information about influenza on its website, cdc.gov, but here are some key points to help you, and others, understand how flu vaccines work and to (hopefully) get you through the flu season unscathed:
- CDC recommends an annual flu vaccine for everyone six months old and older. Be sure to check with your doctor, even if you are getting a shot somewhere other than a doctor’s office – some children ages six months through eight years will require two doses of flu vaccine for adequate protection. These should be spaced at least four weeks apart. If this is the first year your child is getting vaccinated for the flu, they should get two doses regardless any other factors.
- If you live with a child under six months of age, you should at least get vaccinated yourself to help protect the young child from the flu. Ditto for anyone else in your household old enough to warrant receiving such a vaccine.
- In order to better match up with viruses circulating in 2018-19 (the B/Victoria component was changed and the influenza A[H3N2] component was updated), flu vaccines have been updated.
- Standard dose shots are given straight into the muscle, typically with a needle, but two of the vaccines (Afluria and Afluria Quadrivalent) are options that can be given to people ages 18-64 with a jet injector.
- The best time to get a flu shot always is before it starts spreading in your community. Once you hear the news that, say, a lot of kids in your area are missing school because of flu, it’s probably too late, but it still might be worth getting one just to be sure.
- Flu viruses are constantly changing, so it’s typical for new viruses to pop up each year.
- Flu vaccines are produced by private manufacturers, so supply depends on them – not the schools, not the facilities offering the vaccines, and not the government. At the beginning of the 2018-19 season, manufacturers were projecting a need of 163 million to 168 million doses for the U.S.
- Flu vaccines are offered at numerous places, to include schools (for students and teachers), health clinics, health departments, pharmacies, and college health centers as well as some employers.
- The FDA has licensed a seasonal flu vaccine containing adjuvant for adults 65 and older. An adjuvant is a substance added to a vaccine to provide a stronger immune response.
- Flu viruses commonly affect the respiratory tract (consisting in part of the airway of the nose, throat, and lungs). When the infection progresses in your body, your immune system kicks into action to battle the virus, and the resulting inflammation can lead to cough and sore throat. Other possible symptoms include muscle or body aches. Recovery can take anywhere from a few days to less than two weeks, although more serious cases can drag on longer.