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Source: healthline |

With flu season upon us during the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s doubly important to lessen the risk for getting the flu.

In a typical year, flu season occurs from fall to early spring. The length and severity of an epidemic may vary. Some lucky individuals can get through the season flu-free. But be prepared to be surrounded by sneezing and coughing for a few months out of every year and to self-isolate and seek testing as soon as any symptoms appear. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the flu affects between 3 and 11 percent of the U.S. population each year.

Flu symptoms often include:

  • coughing
  • fever (not everyone with flu will have a fever)
  • headache
  • muscle or body aches
  • sore throat
  • runny or stuffed-up nose
  • fatigue
  • vomiting and diarrhea (more common in children than adults)

The symptoms that come with the flu can keep you bedridden for a week or more. An annual flu vaccine is the best way to help protect you against flu. The CDC believes that flu viruses and the virus that causes COVID-19 will both be spreading during fall and winter. The symptoms of flu have major overlap with symptoms of COVID-19, so the flu vaccine will be more important than ever.

How does the flu shot work?

The flu virus changes and adapts every year, which is why it’s so widespread and difficult to avoid. New vaccines are created and released every year to keep up with these rapid changes.

Before each new flu season, federal health experts predict which strains of the flu are most likely to thrive. Influenza A and B viruses are the ones that cause seasonal epidemics. They use these predictions to inform manufactures to produce the appropriate vaccines.

The flu shot works by prompting your immune system to produce antibodies. In turn, these antibodies help the body fight off the strains of flu virus present in the vaccine.

After receiving the flu shot, it takes about 2 weeks for these antibodies to fully develop. There are two variations of the flu shot that protect against different strains: trivalent and quadrivalent. Trivalent protects against two common A strains and one B strain. The high-dose vaccine is a trivalent vaccine. The quadrivalent vaccine is designed to protect against four commonly circulating viruses, two influenza A viruses, and two influenza B viruses. The CDC doesn’t currently recommend one over the other. Check with your insurance provider and your doctor to get a recommendation.

Who needs a flu shot?

Some people may be more prone to getting the flu than others. That’s why CDC recommends that everyone 6 months of age or older be vaccinated against the flu. The shots are not 100 percent effective in preventing the flu. But they’re the most effective method to protect against this virus and its related complications.

High-risk individuals

Certain groups are at an increased risk for getting the flu and developing potentially dangerous flu-related complications. It’s important that people in these high-risk groups be vaccinated.

According to the CDC, these individuals include:

  • pregnant women and women up to 2 weeks after pregnancy
  • children between 6 months and 5 years of age
  • people 18 and under who receive aspirin therapy
  • people over 65
  • anyone with chronic medical conditions
  • people whose body mass index (BMI) is 40 or higher
  • American Indians or Alaska Natives
  • anyone living or working in a nursing home or chronic care facility
  • caregivers of any of the above individuals

Chronic medical conditions that could increase your risk for complications include:

  • asthma
  • neurological conditions
  • blood disorders
  • chronic lung disease
  • endocrine disorders
  • heart disease
  • kidney diseases
  • liver disorders
  • metabolic disorders
  • people with obesity
  • people who’ve had a stroke
  • people with a weakened immune system due to disease or medications

According to the CDC, people under the age of 19 who are on aspirin therapy as well as people taking steroid medications on a regular basis should also be vaccinated.

Workers in public settings have more risk for exposure to the disease, so it’s very important that they receive a vaccination. People who are in regular contact with at-risk individuals like the elderly and children should also be vaccinated.

Those people include:

  • teachers
  • daycare employees
  • hospital workers
  • public workers
  • healthcare providers
  • employees of nursing homes and chronic care facilities
  • home care providers
  • emergency response personnel
  • household members of people in those professions

People who live in close quarters with others, such as college students and members of the military, are also at a greater risk for exposure.

Source: healthline |

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