Fall has arrived which means flu season is right around the corner.
A flu shot is the best way to protect against seasonal influenza. The vaccine changes every year to target the specific flu viruses that are predicted to be most widespread. While shots will be available throughout the flu season, it’s best to receive the vaccine early in the fall to ensure longer protection, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
“A common misconception behind the influenza vaccine is that it can cause the flu. The vaccine is made from an inactivated virus that can't transmit infection, meaning it cannot cause someone to get the flu or any other illness,” said Christopher Ohl, MD, professor of infectious diseases at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center. “The time of year that flu shots are given are also a time when cold viruses circulate. There is actually no correlation to the shot because it’s not a live virus. One reason to get the vaccine early in the season is that it takes around a week or two for the vaccine to offer protection.”
Side effects from the flu shot can include soreness, redness, tenderness or swelling where the shot was administered. Low-grade fever, headache and muscle aches also may occur, Ohl said.
While the vaccine is the best way to fight the flu, here are some everyday actions that can help prevent the illness and stop the spread of germs:
- Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth.
- Regularly clean and disinfect surfaces and objects (doorknobs, keyboards, phones, etc.).
- If experiencing symptoms, stay home for at least 24 hours after the fever subsides (the fever should be gone without the use of a fever-reducing medicine.)
- While sick, limit contact with others—especially babies, the elderly or those with weakened immune systems.
- Wash hands often with soap and water.
- Cover nose and mouth with a tissue when coughing or sneezing and properly discard the tissue.
People at high-risk for developing flu-related complications include: children younger than 5, especially those children under 2; adults older than 65; pregnant women and women up to two weeks postpartum; and residents of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities.
The CDC recommends that everyone 6 months of age and older get a seasonal flu vaccine. There are special vaccination instructions for children ages 6 months through 8 years. For adults 65 and older, there are two vaccines designed specifically for them—older adults should consult with their physicians about the best option for them.