The flu season months are swiftly approaching, and with them comes some common questions—How bad will this flu season be? When does it start? When’s the best time to get vaccinated?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), flu activity begins to increase in October, with its highest peaks landing between December and February. This year’s flu season might be coming a bit earlier than usual, and the CDC recommends people get their flu shots in early autumn to stay ahead of the virus.
The vaccine is a tried-and-true way to protect yourself and your community members from the flu. It’s also pivotal in preventing hospital visits, illnesses, and even death. A 2021 study found that, among those hospitalized with the flu, vaccinated adults had a 31% lower risk of death.
At Klingensmith’s, we’re dedicated to helping keep our community safe, especially during the flu season months. Let’s dive deeper into the influenza flu shot, how it works, and why it matters.
Influenza, commonly known as the flu, is a contagious respiratory virus that often leads to seasonal outbreaks and widespread illness. Because of its self-replicating nature, the virus is continuously evolving into new strains.
That’s why it’s advisable to get a new flu vaccine every year.
The symptoms associated with influenza can range from mild to severe. In some cases, it can even be deadly. Here are the most common influenza flu symptoms:
- Cough, sore throat, or runny nose
- Muscle aches
- Fever or chills
The flu virus is not a reportable disease. Therefore, the CDC doesn’t know the exact number of people who have been affected by influenza. They estimate that from October 2022 to April 2023 it’s been responsible for anywhere from 17,000-98,00 deaths.
This is not to be confused with pandemic flu viruses, which have happened only four times in the past 100 years. The difference between a pandemic and seasonal flu is that pandemic flu viruses are much more widespread, infecting massive amounts of people across the globe.
However, the seasonal flu can also be devastating. When entire communities are affected by influenza during key flu season months, it can quickly become overwhelming. There is an increase in absenteeism in schools and an onslaught of patients needing help at clinics and hospitals.
Why Should You Get the Flu Shot?
Getting your flu shot is a significant step towards safeguarding your personal health and the health of your community.
For starters, the flu vaccine strengthens the immune system, making it more resilient against the virus. If you do catch the flu, you’ll likely experience milder influenza flu symptoms and a quicker recovery.
Getting vaccinated has some overlooked benefits, too. It can be a powerful preventative tool for people suffering from chronic health conditions. For instance, a growing body of knowledge suggests that people with heart disease lower their risk of heart attack and stroke by getting vaccinated.
A yearly vaccination also contributes to building herd immunity for flu season. When enough people get their influenza flu shots, the virus struggles to spread. This protects those who are vulnerable—like the elderly and young children.
Who Is Eligible for the Flu Shot?
The CDC recommends that everyone older than 6 months of age should get the flu vaccine.
There are rare exceptions to this rule, including people who have egg allergies. In this case, there is a special vaccine available called Flucelvax (which we will carry at Klingensmith’s Drug Store locations).
It’s especially crucial for the following groups to get vaccinated:
- People aged 65 or older are the most vulnerable and should stay up to date every flu vaccine season. People in this category may also opt for the vaccine Fluad for extra protection.
- Individuals with chronic health conditions can greatly lessen their risk of complications by getting vaccinated.
- Pregnant women can help protect their babies from potentially serious symptoms with the flu vaccine.
Accessing and Getting the Influenza Vaccine
Getting vaccinated against the flu is relatively easy and accessible. Most pharmacies and healthcare providers offer shots during flu season months, from late September through March.
A wide range of insurance plans cover the flu shot. Co-pays are often minimal, and some insurance plans handle the entire cost.
If you’re unsure about your coverage, don’t hesitate to reach out to your insurance provider or simply ask at your local pharmacy. They’ll guide you through the process and help ensure you’re protected.
What to Expect During Your Shot
Preparing for your vaccine is straightforward. Remember to wear loose-fitting clothing so that your upper arm can be easily accessed, as the shot is typically administered there.
During the visit, a healthcare professional will clean the injection site and then quickly administer the vaccine with a tiny needle. This will cause a brief (and virtually painless) pinch or sting.
Afterward, you’ll likely be monitored for a few minutes to check for any immediate reactions. Once your flu shot is complete, you’ll be set for the remainder of this year’s flu vaccine season.
Possible Side Effects of the Flu Shot
Despite common misconceptions, flu vaccines do not cause the flu. However, they can trigger some mild side effects that are mistaken for the flu.
For example, some people experience an ache or soreness in the area where the shot was given. Those who are vaccinated with the influenza nasal spray vaccine may experience a stuffy nose or sore throat.
These side effects are not the flu. If experienced, they should subside within one to two days.
Rare adverse effects, while extremely uncommon, can include severe allergic reactions (anaphylaxis), which occur in less than one in a million doses.
In almost every case, the benefits of the flu vaccination, like preventing illness and its complications, far outweigh the rare risks. If you have concerns about potential side effects, consult with your healthcare provider or pharmacy. They will provide guidance tailored to your specific health situation.
Get Your Flu Shot at Your Local Klingensmith’s
This autumn, don’t let the seasonal flu virus catch you off guard. By getting an influenza flu shot, you’ll be taking care of your health and that of those around you.
The benefits of flu shots can’t be stated enough: greater herd immunity, resilience to catching the virus, and fewer unpleasant symptoms, just to name a few.
Your local pharmacy is the perfect place to get your seasonal flu shot. At Klingensmith’s Drug Store, we’re well-stocked on this year’s influenza vaccine—including Flucelvax and Fluad. The vaccines are available at all of our drugstore locations throughout Armstrong County.
Please note that the influenza vaccine can be administered at the same time as other vaccines. However, you should always check with your pharmacist or doctor if you have any questions.
Contact us with any questions or stop by one of our pharmacies in person to learn more.