I do not want to get the flu! What should I do? The absolute best way to stave off the flu is to get a flu vaccine each year. It doesn’t hurt at all.

There are two types of flu vaccines. The nasal spray contains live, but weakened virus sometimes called LAIV for “Live Attenuated Influenza Vaccine. These viruses do not cause the flu and this format is approved for healthy people aged two to forty nine who are not pregnant.

Then there is the needle based “shot.” The “shot” is an inactivated vaccine. No, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t work. It means the viruses in the shot are not living. This year there are actually three versions of the injectable version of the flu shot. The bulk of the vaccine supply in the United States is the “regular.” This is an intramuscular injection usually placed in the upper arm. It’s been used for decades on anyone over the age of six months. For those aged 65 and older there is a hi-dose version. It is also intramuscular. The newest version is an intradermal injection. It’s shot into the skin. This is for people aged 18 to 64.

About two weeks after vaccination, antibodies develop that protect against influenza virus infection. Flu vaccines will not protect against flu-like illnesses caused by non-influenza viruses. Researchers make a prediction each year as to which three flu viruses will be the most common that year and the vaccine is designed to protect against those three. Hopefully they are right.

Annual flu season varies as to when it will begin and how long it will last. With that in mind, how do you know when to get a vaccine? It is usually available in September or October, and you should get it as soon as possible. But it’s almost never too late because the season can last as long as May. It won’t help to get the vaccine after you have the flu though. That would be too easy. The season seems to peak in January or February, but can last longer.

In addition to the vaccine, there are a couple of common sense things you can do to avoid the flu. Stay away from sick people. Stay home if you are sick. Wash your hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub. Don’t share linens, eating utensils, and dishes used by those who are sick without thoroughly washing them first. Surfaces that are frequently touched should be cleaned and disinfected at home, work and school, especially if someone is ill.
It’s flu season. You don’t have to get it!