October has just begun and it’s the perfect time to get your flu shot. Getting vaccinated each year provides the best protection throughout flu season. It’s important to get a flu vaccine every year, even if you got vaccinated the season before. Flu strains constantly change, and it’s not unusual for new flu viruses to appear each year.

Flu season typically begins in October and November, peaks during the months of December through February and then tapers off in the spring.

The flu vaccine takes about two weeks after vaccination to fully develop protective antibodies against the flu virus. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends people get vaccines by the end of October to be fully immunized against this year’s flu. Infants and some young children who need two doses for full protection should start the vaccination process soon, because the two doses must be given at least four weeks apart.

The CDC has updated its age recommendation this year to include babies six months of age. Children six months through eight years of age will need two doses of flu vaccine if they are getting vaccinated for the first time or if they have only had one dose of flu vaccine in the past. Children who have had two doses of flu vaccine (given at any time) only need one dose per season.

To prevent the spread of flu to children younger than 6 months and too young to get a flu vaccine, everyone who is around the baby should be vaccinated. Also, studies have shown that flu vaccination of a mother during pregnancy can protect the baby after birth from flu infection for several months.

According to CDC, flu can spread from the person who is ill to others up to six feet away. Most experts think that flu viruses spread mainly by droplets made when people with flu cough, sneeze or talk. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs. A person can also get flu by touching a surface or object that has flu virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes.

People with flu are most contagious in the first three to four days after their illness begins. Most healthy adults may be able to infect others beginning one day before symptoms develop and up to five to seven days after becoming sick. Children and some people with weakened immune systems may pass the virus for longer than seven days. Generally speaking, most people can return to school or work after being fever-free without fever-reducing medications for at least 24 hours.

Symptoms can begin about two days after the virus enters the body. That means that you may be able to pass on the flu to someone else before you know you are sick, as well as while you are sick. Some people can be infected with the flu virus but have no symptoms. During this time, those people may still spread the virus to others.

The best way to avoid getting ill is to get the flu vaccine every season. Flu vaccines are available at all Valley Health primary care center, including school-based health locations.  If you have questions about the safety of the influenza vaccine, and which type of vaccine delivery system is best for you and your loved ones (spray, injection, jet injector), please feel free to call your Valley Health provider for information.

If you are having flu-like symptoms and would like an evaluation, please contact your primary care provider or call your local Valley Health location.