It’s Time to Get Your Flu Shot
Douglas MacQueen, MD
flu season typically arrives between October and May each year. It can take two
to three weeks after you receive your vaccination for it to become effective so
now is a good time to get your flu shot.
a shot guarantee that I won’t get the flu?
purpose of a flu shot is to prevent influenza infection, and in those who do
get the flu, make it a milder, briefer illness. The three steps you can take to
significantly reduce your risk for coming down with the flu are to get
vaccinated, wash your hands more frequently using soap and water, and stay away
from people who are sick with the flu. If you are planning to travel during the
holidays and those plans involve flying, you should get vaccinated now. Flying
brings us into contact with people from all over the world and an early
vaccination will provide you with the best possible immunity.
should get the flu shot?
certain exceptions, everyone six months of age or older should get a flu shot.
Vaccination is especially important if you are in a high-risk group. This
includes people with weakened immune systems, asthma and other lung diseases,
diabetes, women who are pregnant, people under age two or over age 65, and
those with kidney, liver, or heart disease. If you have regular contact with an
infant, you should definitely get vaccinated to protect the health of the baby.
should not have a flu shot?
less than six months old should not be vaccinated for the flu. Older siblings,
parents, and grandparents who visit the baby should get flu shots. If you have
an egg allergy, you should see an allergist to decide if it’s safe to get a flu
shot. People with a history of Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS) within six weeks
of a previous flu shot should talk with their doctors before having a flu shot.
I get a case of the flu from the vaccine?
you cannot contract the flu from a flu shot. Some types of the vaccine have
dead virus, some have weakened virus that can’t cause illness.
is different about this year’s vaccine?
are a few different types of vaccine available this year. Each has a slightly
different twist, for example, the intranasal spray vaccine shouldn’t be used by
pregnant women. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) doesn’t recommend any one
vaccine over another; the most important thing is to get a flu shot.
do I need to get vaccinated every year?
need to get vaccinated every year because the dominant strain of flu changes
from year to year. The vaccine is designed to protect against what are
predicted to be the most likely strains for the upcoming season. Additionally,
the immunity you developed from previous flu shots decreases over time.
should I do if I get flu symptoms?
you develop a fever, chills, fatigue, cough, or body aches, see your doctor.
People I mentioned above who are at high risk of complications from the flu
should take antiviral medicine if they have the flu. Most certainly, if you
come down with the flu, don’t go to work or school.
bottom line is that the best approach to avoiding the flu is to wash your hands
frequently and get a flu shot. The New York State Department of Health now
requires everyone working in an inpatient health-care facility to get
vaccinated, which underscores how very important vaccination is in preventing
the spread of influenza.
MacQueen is an infectious disease specialist who is board certified in internal
medicine and infectious diseases. He is on the medical staff of Cayuga Medical
Center and can be reached at the Cayuga Center for Infectious Diseases at (607)