When should I get my flu shot?
What are you waiting for? It’s time to get your flu vaccine!
Flu season officially starts in October, but you shouldn’t wait until then to get your flu vaccine. It is critically important that certain individuals get their flu shots now, in September, so the body will have a chance to build up an immunity to the viruses that are expected to attack this fall and winter season.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that everyone six months or older get an annual flu vaccine, with few exceptions. Why? Well, it’s not just because a runny nose, fever, sore throat and cough can make you feel miserable. While that is reason enough for some, the truth is the flu can kill.
Those who are especially susceptible to serious complications from the flu are young children, older adults, and people with chronic health conditions like asthma, heart disease or diabetes. In the United States alone, 36,000 people die and more than 200,000 are hospitalized each year because of the flu. Some years, the numbers are much higher.
Officially, flu season runs from October to May, with most of the cases happening from late December to early March. So why get the vaccine now? It takes about two weeks after you get the vaccination for the antibodies needed to protect you from the virus to develop in your body. You want to be protected before the virus starts spreading.
Frankly, no one can give you an exact date on when a flu virus will arrive in your community. But, one thing is clear… with school starting and cooler temperatures creeping in now, people find they are spending much more time indoors than they were just a few weeks ago. Being indoors means you are confined with all the germs that others around you are carrying. A simple sneeze or cough — maybe it’s due to a seasonal allergy — can carry those germs from one person to another in a flash.
Why take the risk? It’s a question I ask every year. I was shocked to learn that only 40 percent of adults bothered to get a flu vaccine during the 2009 Swine Flu pandemic. As a physician, I can’t force my patients to accept the vaccine, but I can forcefully explain the value, especially to those in my concierge practice.
As a physician affiliated with Concierge Choice Physicians, I make a point of reminding my patients that the flu vaccine can be a lifesaver. But, I have the time to go beyond that reminder with my concierge patients. I am able to fully lay out the benefits. One of those benefits is milder symptoms if my patient does happen to get sick. It takes a couple of weeks for the vaccine to kick in, so there is always that possibility. Of course, my concierge patients are then able to take advantage of a cell phone call to me or a same day appointment to deal those symptoms.
For my senior patients, I try to be especially persuasive, since it is seniors who account for the highest number of fatalities from the flu in this country. For those over 65, I recommend the high-dose flu vaccine, because it offers them even greater protection. This vaccine is designed specifically to help those with weakened immune systems to make more antibodies to protect the body against the flu.
OK, you’ve waited this long. Can you wait longer? I’d rather you didn’t but the truth is, you can get your flu vaccine until late November, and assure you will be protected during that heightened flu period that begins in December. Of course, you should always speak with your physician, if you have any questions about the flu vaccine.
Dr. Damon Raskin, MD is a leading board certified internist who has maintained a practice in Los Angeles, California since 1996. Dr. Raskin is affiliated with Concierge Choice Physicians, which is dedicated to preventive care options for patients and physicians.
The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the views of The Hill.