Martin Soto, MD
Between 2010 and 2020, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that strains of seasonal flu caused 140,000 and 810,000 hospitalizations and between 12,000 and 61,000 deaths each year.
Despite fewer cases in 2020 because increased health safety measures, experts predict the 2021-’22 season will see a spike in flu cases, potentially in tandem with COVID-19 variants. Doctors are urging everyone to get their yearly flu shot. With a two-week lead time between inoculation and effectiveness, putting it off keeps you at risk longer.
Who Should Get a Flu Shot?
The short answer: everyone. With a few rare exceptions due to allergic reactions, all adults and children older than 6 months should receive the flu shot annually. While flu season officially begins in September and October, there are folks with higher risks that should consider getting it even earlier. Those include:
● Pregnant women. The flu shot not only protects the mother, but her inoculation provides a level of defense against flu to her newborn as well.
● School-aged children. With most schools starting in August, and children historically reporting the earliest and most frequent cases of the flu (20 percent to 30 percent), having them get their flu vaccines early in the school year is highly recommended.
● Seniors. Because of changes in the immune system stemming from age, adults over 65 should consider getting their vaccine earlier. Seniors face the highest mortality rates from influenza.
● Adults with chronic health conditions. For people with long-term health challenges such as asthma, kidney disease, heart disease or diabetes, an already taxed immune system becomes more susceptible to flu viruses.
Other Steps to Avoid Getting the Flu
Demonstrated by the COVID-19 health safety measures, other effective ways to protect yourself from the flu are to maintain social distance, wash your hands with warm water and soap, use hand sanitizer regularly and avoid touching your mouth and nose.
If you do become infected, isolate to avoid spreading the virus to others, be sure to stay hydrated, get plenty of rest and be patient. It can take up to two weeks for even normally healthy people to recover from the flu.
The CDC has determined that there are no added risks associated with getting both your COVID and flu shots at the same time and has eliminated the 14 day wait-time initially in place. Taking the first step toward protecting you and your family is as easy as making an appointment or walking into a clinic for your vaccine.
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