What you need to know about the 2016 flu shot

A yearly seasonal flu vaccine is the first and most important step in protecting against flu.

A yearly seasonal flu vaccine is the first and most important step in protecting against flu.

Flu season is upon us. The typical flu season ramps up in October and can last until May, hitting its peak in the United States in December through March. The flu is not only uncomfortable and inconvenient, it can be dangerous and deadly for some. If you haven't done so already, you need to start thinking about a strategy to stay flu-free this year.

A key part of that strategy should include a flu shot. Several important things have changed about the flu shot this season – here’s what you need to know.

Don’t Believe the Hype: Timing is Important
The immunity you get from the flu vaccine does not last forever, which makes timing an important consideration. Experts at the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) say the vaccine may last up to a year in young healthy people, but the way your immune system reacts to it may affect that range. The effectiveness of the vaccine can be much shorter for people over the age of 65.

Stepping into any pharmacy in late summer will put you face-to-face with an overwhelming number of ads for the flu vaccine. However, experts say that August, and even September, may be too early to get your vaccine. A good rule of thumb is to get your vaccine sometime between Halloween and Thanksgiving (the end of October to the end of November). Any sooner and you may be too early to receive full protection for the entire season. Any later and you may find yourself in the peak part of the flu season before your vaccination reaches full effectiveness.

No More Nasal Spray Vaccine
Unfortunately for people who don’t like needles, the nasal spray version of the flu vaccine is not recommended for the 2106-17 season.

Health officials at the CDC examined data for flu infections over the last three years before making this recommendation. They found the nasal spray was only three percent effective at preventing the flu. In other words, it provided virtually no protection. In comparison, the traditional flu shot has been 60 percent effective at preventing the flu over the last several years.

Who Should Get the Flu Vaccine
Anyone over the age of six months should get a flu vaccine each season. People who are at greater risk for developing complications from the flu should definitely be vaccinated, which includes:

  • Children younger than five years old (and especially children six months to two years old)
  • Adults 65 years old and older
  • Pregnant women
  • People who live in nursing homes and long-term care facilities
  • People who have medical conditions such as asthma, neurological disorders, lung disease, heart disease, blood and endocrine diseases, kidney and liver disorders, weakened immune systems and obesity.

Children under six months old are too young to receive a flu shot. People who have severe allergies to the flu vaccine should also not receive it. If you have an egg allergy, it’s recommended that you talk to your doctor first about getting a flu vaccine.

Most pharmacies and doctors currently carry the flu vaccine for the 2016-17 season. Pharmacies accept walk-in appointments or you can call your doctor to schedule one. Organizations like the American Lung Association and Flu.gov can help you find other locations near you that administer flu shots. Click here for more information

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About Crozer Keystone Staff

Crozer-Keystone Health System’s physicians, specialists and advanced practitioners are committed to improving the health of our community through patient-centered, quality care across a full continuum of health services. Crozer Brinton Lake is Crozer-Keystone’s comprehensive outpatient care facility in western Delaware County, offering primary care, specialty services, outpatient surgery and advanced cancer treatment. Contact us: 300 Evergreen Drive, Glen Mills, PA 19342 http://www.crozerkeystone.org/Brinton-Lake 1-855-254-7425

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