Even though we're in the midst of Labor Day Weekend, health experts say it's time to start thinking about protecting you and your family from the flu.
1. When You Should Get Your Shot
The CDC encourages everyone to get their flu vaccine by the end of October.
"That gives you time to build your immunity because peak season in this area is January, sometimes into February," explains Robbin Lee, owner and pharmacist at Total Care Pharmacy in Burlington.
His store and many other drug stores and healthcare providers already have flu shots available for people to get. Flu vaccines should still be available after flu season starts.
2. Nasal Spray Is Back In The Mix
This year, the CDC updated its recommendations to include nasal spray FluMist after a 2 year hiatus. In 2016, the CDC reviewed data that the nasal spray was not as effective against current flu strains and it did not recommend it as a vaccine the past two flu seasons. But this year, the FluMist vaccine has been updated and it's back in the recommendations for people 2-49 years old that are not pregnant.
The CDC doesn't list a preference between nasal spray or a shot, but the American Academy of Pediatrics takes a different stance. The AAP is advising parents to get the shot over the nasal spray, noting shots are the most consistent form of protection. The AAP recommends all chidlren 6-months or older get a flu shot.
Check with your doctor about which might be right for you and your family.
Additionally, the FDA has not yet approved FluMist so it is not available right now. Certain healthcare providers already have shots available.
3. Different Types of Vaccines for Different Ages
The CDC lists a variety of different vaccines to take to protect yourself against the flu:
- Standard dose flu shot
- High-does shots for older people
- Shots made with adjuvant for older people
- Shots made with virus grown in cell culture (for those who might have an egg allergy)
- Nasal Spray
- Shots made using vaccine production technology (does not require use of flu virus)
The CDC recommends everyone 6 months or older get vaccinated. Again, check with your doctor about which might be right for you and your family.
4. When You Might Be Contagious
According to the CDC, the flu virus spreads predominantly when a contagious person is coughing, sneezing and talking. If you have the flu, you are most contagious in the first 3-4 days after the illness begins. However, you might still be able to infect others starting 1 day before symptoms start to develop and up to a week after becoming sick.
"Hand washing, hand washing, hand washing," Lee tells. "That's the best way to protect yourself other than getting your flu shot so make sure you're washing those hands."
For a list of flu symptoms from the CDC, click here.
5. Protecting Children From The Flu
Experts say the best way to protect children from the flu virus is to get the vaccine every year. Flu viruses change constantly, so the updated vaccines will be what experts believe will work best for the strains expected in the upcoming season.
The CDC also recommends caregivers of children at high risk of flu complications should get the vaccine. High risk could mean a baby younger than 6-months-old who is too young to get a flu shot.
Pregnant woman should also get a flu vaccine to protect their baby from the flu. Certain vaccines are recommended for pregnant women, so check with a doctor about which might work best for you and your baby.