4 Important Things to Know About the Flu Shot

September 16, 2013
by Michael Barber
4 Important Things to Know About the Flu Shot

It's essential to prepare for the flu season each year and one way to do that is getting a flu shot. These annual vaccinations can stop the flu in its tracks. It's also important for those at high-risk for the flu and children to get flu shot each and every year. Here are four things you should know about this vaccine.

Related: Flu Shot Pros and Cons

When Does Flu Season Begin?

The flu season begins in the fall with its peak in January and February. Flu season can start as early as October, however, and last as late as March of the following year. Flu shots are available at your doctor's office, county health departments, through retail clinics like Healthcare Clinic at Walgreens or at urgent care centers. Check with your doctor and see when they will have shots available or call a walk-in clinic near you and ask when they will be stocked with the vaccine.

Should I Get the Flu Vaccine?

Influenza should not be confused with a cold. It can be dangerous to some and plain miserable for others. Today's flu shots are available in shot or in nasal spray form. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates in the United States between the years of 1976 and 2007, deaths caused by influenza reached 49,000. The CDC also says that during a "regular flu season, about 90 percent of deaths occur in people 65 years and older."

The flu can be horrible to experience for those in good general health and getting the vaccine helps to prevent this virus. For seniors, children, those in high-risk categories and people in working in medical facilities or childcare centers, the flu shot is essential to obtain. Your family care physician is equipped to deliver the flu shot and can answer other questions you have about flu season and the vaccine.

Related: In the Nurse's Office: Common Sicknesses in Schools [Infographic]

How Do I Know If I'm in the High-Risk Category?

Flu.gov says high-risk categories include:

  • All seniors 65 years of age or older
  • All children, especially those under two years of age

Those with certain medical conditions are also considered to be in the high-risk category. This category includes people with:

  • Asthma
  • Arthritis
  • Cancer
  • Diabetes
  • COPD or other Lung Diseases
  • Heart Disease
  • HIV or AIDS
  • Kidney Disease
  • Pregnant Women

Even if you don't have one of the above medical conditions, ask your doctor if any health conditions you suffer from also fall in the high-risk category.

What's the Best Treatment for Influenza?

The very best way to treat influenza is by prevention—or obtaining a flu shot. If you do come down with the flu, don't take antibiotics because the flu is not an infection but a virus and antibiotics don't work on viruses. Other ways to battle the flu include:

  • Seeking out an antiviral like Tamiflu® at the first sign of symptoms. This won't make the flu go away but lessen its duration.
  • Getting plenty of rest and staying home from work or school. The flu virus is contagious from a day before symptoms appear to seven to ten days after the flu begins.
  • Drink plenty of liquids including broth, sports drinks or those that contain electrolytes.
  • Using cool compresses on the forehead and other parts of the body to reduce fever.
  • Taking ibuprofen or acetaminophen to reduce fever and body aches.
  • Using a humidifier to help ease breathing.
  • Gargling with warm salt water (1:1 ratio).
  • Over-the-counter flu medications can also be taken; however, do follow recommended doses.

Prevention is the best way to battle the flu so find walk in clinic locations near you and get the vaccine so flu season passes you by.