For much of the United States, the thought of winter illness still seems far away. Summer has just nearly ended and a last minute heat wave is making many of us delay the annual wardrobe changeover we tend to undertake. Yet although we have yet to see the telltale signs of fall or even winter, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are urging Americans to get their flu shot now.
Why is there so much pressure to prevent getting this year’s flu, and what exactly are your options when it comes to the flu shot? Our 2018 flu roundup will answer all of these questions and more, so keep reading!
2018-2019 Flu Season
The CDC is typically very proactive when it comes to educating the public about the dangers of the flu and ensuring that people are vaccinated appropriately. This flu season there seems to be an even stronger push for prevention, given that during the 2017-2018 flu period, the CDC noted the highest death toll as a result of the virus in nearly 40 years. Instances of severe outbreaks can lead to fatalities numbering around 56,000, while each year typically sees around 12,000 deaths due to the flu. Last year, however, was responsible for 80,000 deaths.
The flu season typically lasts from early October through late March, although in past years has extended through May. Peak illness spans from December through February, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get a jump on your prevention as soon as flu vaccines are available in your area. It can take anywhere from two to four weeks for antibodies in your immune system to prepare for the invading flu virus, meaning that getting your flu shot in November may end up being too late.
Part of the reason that so many individuals ended up sicker than what seemed to be normal had to do with a severe shortage of Tamiflu, a liquid prescribed by physicians during peak flu season. Between what some called an ineffective vaccine and this lack of resources, it’s no wonder the flu season hit the nation so hard last year.
Weighing Your Options
Understanding the importance of receiving the flu vaccine is half of the battle for many across the country, so once you’ve decided to take preventative measures, what are your choices? As more and more research is conducted about the flu itself and how vaccines can help, the CDC recommends one of the following options:
- Quadrivalent – one of the first options to protect against four different strains of the flu, this injection is suitable for children as young as six months. While it’s a bit more expensive than other options, it was one of the most popular choices during the 2016-2017 flu season.
- Trivalent – offering protection against two A and one B flu strains, this option has been on the market the longest. Trivalent is a great choice for people who are on a budget and want to receive protection against the flu without spending a lot out of pocket.
- Flublok- As traditional flu vaccines contain egg, it leaves those with severe food allergies in a tough position. An egg-free alternative called Flublock is available for patients over the age of 18.
- High dose options – Ideal for patients over the age of 65, some providers will offer a vaccine that’s intended to make up for antibodies that are weakened due to older age.
Some might be wondering where the popular FluMist option is within this 2018 list, but experts found it to be ineffective, and while it was a convenient way to protect against the seasonal flu, it is no longer a viable option.
Common Sense Measures
Above and beyond just receiving your annual flu shot, there are a number of other precautions one can take in order to stay healthy during the flu season. As the flu is an incredibly contagious illness, keep in mind that simple measures like washing your hands after using the restroom or blowing your nose can help to limit the spread of the virus.
Keeping your immune system healthy and strong is a key element in how susceptible you’ll be to the flu whether you’ve had the vaccine or not, so make sure to eat a balanced diet that’s full of fresh fruit and vegetables. Getting enough sleep and aiming to reduce stress can also go a long way toward your overall health and resiliency to the flu virus.
If you do find yourself feeling sick, don’t hesitate to visit your primary care physician. He or she may find it appropriate to prescribe antiviral drugs, including the previously mentioned Tamiflu. These medications help to reduce the duration of your illness and can also prevent the virus from spreading. By all accounts, flu season is already here, so take the time to get vaccinated and do your best to stay healthy this fall and winter!