The temperatures are dropping. All of the leaves are beginning to change color, and fall's favorite flavor pumpkin spice is back. That also means that flu season is once again upon us.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the 2018 to 2019 flu season is in full swing. The flu vaccines available this year have been updated to reflect the current versions of the virus that are going around.
Vaccines can be administered through injection or the nasal spray for those who would prefer to not receive an injection. It's a good idea to ask your doctor which method is best for you in regards to your medical conditions and current medications.
Experts recommend that everyone in the family get a flu shot, and these are the reasons why.
10 Even healthy kids can pass away from the flu
A 2013 study from the CDC found that the flu can have deadly consequences for unvaccinated children who contract the illness. Dr. Karen Wong, a CDC medical epidemiologist and lead author of the published research, told WebMD:"We found these influenza-related deaths can occur in children with and without medical conditions and in children of all ages, and that very few of these children have been vaccinated." She said that children who get sick from the flu can pass away within three days of becoming ill. The flu vaccine can reduce the severity of the flu and keep it from spreading.
9 Stimulate antibodies against the flu
Flu shots prepare the body to handle the flu virus if it comes into contact with it. “The flu vaccine stimulates your body to make antibodies," Patricia Winokur, MD, told WebMD. The Encyclopedia Brittanica defines the antibody as a "protective protein" that attacks antigens (such as viruses or bacteria). While people may still get sick with the flu even if they get the vaccine, it is usually not as severe as it would have been without it. The antibodies stimulated by the vaccine minimize the severity of the flu.
8 Develop 'herd immunity' to protect others
The flu can be deadly for those who have compromised immune systems. "A lot of patients who have immunological diseases, or an organ transplant, have cancer or other conditions may not be strong enough to get a flu vaccine," Dr. Megha Tewari, Memorial Hermann Medical Group, told NBC News. "But if those around them are vaccinated, we develop a herd immunity, so that hopefully the few people who can't get the vaccine will not get infected." Herd immunity protects everyone around us from getting the flu.
7 Flu evolves rapidly, so last year's shot doesn't count
Unlike other diseases that take a long time to change, the flu virus evolves every year. There are four different types of flu viruses, according to the CDC, and each type will have several strains (versions) in circulation.
Dr. Ruth Karron, who is an epidemiology professor and director of the Center for Immunization Research at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, told The New York Times: “Not only does flu change, but it’s a survival strategy for the virus. Its change is how it makes people so sick." Our body's natural antibodies can't keep up with an ever-evolving virus, so the vaccine gives us a boost to prevent severe illness.
6 Important protection for pregnant women and babies
If the flu can have devastating consequences for healthy children and adults, then the flu can certainly cause severe problems for pregnant women and babies. Tatnai Burnett, M.D., wrote for Mayo Clinic that the flu shot is recommended for pregnant women for the following reasons: It prevents the flu and maternal complications, prevents potential fetal problems as a result of getting the flu and protects the baby after birth.
"Infants are at increased risk of severe flu symptoms, but childhood flu vaccines can't begin until a baby is 6 months old," she wrote. "If you have a flu shot during pregnancy, the antibodies you develop will pass through the placenta and breast milk, if you're breastfeeding."
5 October is the best time to get a flu shot
Doctors recommend getting the flu shot before the flu season even starts. This makes sense because it helps to prevent the illness from spreading or becoming more severe if it is tackled at the onset of the flu season.
Dr. Claire Bocchini, who specializes in infectious disease at Texas Children's Hospital, told CBS News that "flu can start to spread as early as October. It takes about two weeks after the shot for your body to make antibodies that protect you against the flu." This is why she and other medical professionals suggest that we get our flu vaccines before the end of October. It is still okay to get the vaccine later in the season, though.
4 Children need the boost in immunity
While adults can still become severely ill from the flu, children whose immune systems are still developing are at greater risk of developing complications from getting the flu. For this reason, children (and those who spend time around children) should get the flu shot.
Dr. Cindy Gellner told University of Utah, Health, that flu shots go a long way to protect kids from the severe effects of the flu. "So if your child happens to actually get true influenza and they've had a flu vaccine, they are going to be much less sick than if they did not get the flu vaccine," she said. "If your child has not gotten the flu vaccine and they do get the flu, it can be pretty bad."
3 Survive the flu season
Sometimes we think that the flu is as harmless as the common cold, but that could not be further from the truth. Joseph DeVeau, M.D, told Piedmonth Healthcare that "about 200,000 people are hospitalized because of the flu” every year. Hospitalization is serious but not even the worst of it. He also said that "anywhere from 3,000 to 49,000 people a year die from the flu," dating back to 1971.
According to Healthline, it isn't the flu itself that causes deadly consequences but the complications that flu can cause. Flu can progress to more serious illnesses, such as pneumonia, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and congestive heart failure. These illnesses affect the lungs and the heart and may lead to death. This is why we should take the flu seriously and get vaccinated before we get sick.
2 Flu shots are often covered by insurance
Flu shots prevent the flu become a widespread and dangerous epidemic, so most insurance companies are willing to cover it at 100 percent. That means that you and your family may not need to pay a co-pay or any additional charges to get protected. According to U.S. News, the no-cost benefit may depend on where the flu vaccine is administered. Check with your insurance to see if it is covered at local pharmacies or at the doctor's office. Some locations even host flu clinics to make it easier to get the flu shot for those of us who have busy schedules.
1 The flu shot does not cause the flu
Despite a popular misconception, flu shots do not actually cause the flu. What does it mean if you get the sniffles after getting the shot, though? "Since it takes about two weeks for the vaccine to work, you may have been exposed to the flu before your immune system had a chance to prepare," Dr. Kevin Tolliver wrote on KevinMD. He also says that it is possible that you came down with something else that is not the flu but has similar symptoms around the time that you got the flu shot.
Dr. William Schaffner, who specializes in infectious diseases and teaches at the Vanderbilt University in Nashville, told The Today Show that it is "impossible" to get sick with the flu from the flu shot. Why? The flu virus in the vaccine is not a living virus. Your immune system does not care about it that, though, and will develop antibodies from even a dead virus.