Whether you get the flu shot or not, influenza (commonly called the flu), is all but guaranteed to affect you or someone you know. Flu season in the U.S. generally occurs between October and April. While the exact timing changes—and will depend on how active the virus is in your area—flu season affects a lot of people: 5 to 20 percent of the U.S. population gets the flu each year.
Flu symptoms do not change much from year to year, although the strain of the influenza virus that causes the illness often does. If you get the flu, you can expect symptoms including fever, body aches, headache, cough, fatigue, and lethargy. Some people may experience minor congestion and occasionally vomiting or diarrhea, too. Since the flu and the flu vaccine can vary year to year, guidelines to help you and your family stay healthy can change too. Read on for tips and updates for this year’s flu season.
Updated Flu Vaccine Recommendations From the CDC
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that people 6 months and older should be vaccinated against the flu each year. Updates for the 2017-2018 flu season include the following.
- The nasal spray flu vaccine, FluMist, is not recommended. The CDC first made this recommendation last year due to concerns that the spray vaccine is less effective than the flu shot.
- Pregnant women can receive any age-appropriate, licensed, and recommended flu vaccine.
- Strains of influenza included in vaccine were updated per recommendations by the World Health Organization for the Northern Hemisphere.
- The recommendation for use of several brands of flu vaccine were updated per FDA labeling.
- Updated recommendations are included for people with egg allergies.
People with egg allergies are no longer told to avoid the flu vaccine. If you have an egg allergy that causes only a rash or hives, you can get the flu vaccine anywhere it is available. If you have a severe or life-threatening egg allergy, any licensed health care professional that can recognize and respond to the signs and symptoms of a severe allergic reaction can administer the flu vaccine to you in a health care setting.
When Should You Get the Flu Vaccine?
You should get the flu vaccine as soon as it is available in your area. Some flu vaccines may be available as early as July or August in some places, but most locations have it by September or early October. It takes two weeks for the vaccine to be effective and provide protection against the flu, so get it as early in the season as possible—ideally, before influenza starts to circulate where you live.
Flu Vaccine Options
Although the nasal spray flu vaccine is not recommended for use this year, there are plenty of other options to protect your family from the flu. Traditional flu shots are available in trivalent (3 strain) and quadrivalent (4 strain) formulations for people 6 months and older. An intradermal vaccine is available for adults between the ages of 18 to 65 years. Instead of being injected into the muscle like most vaccines, it is injected just into the skin so it is less painful than a regular flu shot. Your health care provider can help determine which type of flu vaccine is right for you.
Fend off the Flu This Year
Schedule a flu shot to increase your chances of staying healthy this year. (Just make sure you don’t fall within the group of people who should not get the vaccine.) Since the flu changes every season, it’s important to keep tabs on recommendations and updates to keep your family safe.
In addition to writing about common medical illnesses, Kristina is a military wife and mother to two young boys, including one with special needs.