Everything you need to know about the Flu Season
Here at Blue Hills, we want all of our patients to be well prepared for the upcoming flu season. This page is here to help you learn more about the flu, the vaccines, and what you can do when you have the flu.
2020 Flu Season
Due to COVID-19, our offices will no longer have walk-in clinic hours to get a flu shot. Please call our office to schedule an appointment to receive your flu shot.
We will be giving regular flu shots as well as high risk flu shots. If you are over sixty five years of age, have uncontrolled diabetes, heart problems, severe asthma and/or COPD, severe chronic kidney issues or on dialysis, history of cancer, or taking any medications that can suppress your immune systems, then you should get the high risk flu shot.
The Influenza (Flu) Virus
What happens when you have the flu?
Influenza viruses usually affect the respiratory tract – the airways of the nose, throat, and lungs. As the infection progresses, the body’s immune systems responds to fight the virus – this leads to inflammation that can trigger symptoms such as a cough and sore throat. The immune system can also trigger fever and cause muscle/body aches.
Common flu symptoms:
Fever (*not all people with the flu with have a fever)
Runny or stuffy nose
Sometime diarrhea and vomiting
Most people who are sick with the flu recover in a few days to 2 weeks, but some people can become even more ill. Following a flu infection, moderate complications such as an ear or sinus infection can occur. Pneumonia is a serious complication that can result from the flu virus. Other possible serious complications include inflammation of the heart, brain, or muscle tissues and multi organ failure. These complications can happen to anyone but are more likely to happen in people with certain chronic illnesses or in the elderly.
When is the flu season in the United States?
Flu season normally occurs in the fall and winter in the United States. Though the influenza virus does circulate year round, flu activity peaks between December and February, starting as early as October and can last as late as May.
What can I do to protect myself from the flu?
The CDC recommends that everyone older than 6 months of age should get the flu shot. You should also take preventative actions such as washing your hands, avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth to reduce the spread of germs and staying away from sick people. If you are sick, stay home from work or school to prevent spreading the illness to others and cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing.
The Influenza (Flu) Vaccine
When should I get vaccinated?
Ideally, you should get a flu vaccine before the flu starts to spread in your community. It actually takes about 2 weeks after vaccination for the antibodies that protect against the flu to develop in your body, so try to get your flu vaccination in the early fall. The CDC recommends that people should get it by the end of October. If it’s past October, no need to fret! Getting vaccinated late is still beneficial.
What viruses will the 2020 - 2021 flu vaccines protect against?
The composition of flu vaccines in the US is reviewed every year and updated as needed to match circulating flu viruses. This year’s flu vaccine will protect against 3-4 viruses that research suggest will be the most common. For 2020-2021, trivalent (three-component) egg-based vaccines are recommended to contain:
A/Guangdong-Maonan/SWL1536/2019 (H1N1)pdm09-like virus (updated)
A/Hong Kong/2671/2019 (H3N2)-like virus (updated)
B/Washington/02/2019 (B/Victoria lineage)-like virus (updated)
Quadrivalent (four-component) egg-based vaccines, which protect against a second lineage of B viruses, are recommended to contain:
the three recommended viruses above, plus B/Phuket/3073/2013-like (Yamagata lineage) virus.
For 2020-2021, cell- or recombinant-based vaccines are recommended to contain:
A/Hawaii/70/2019 (H1N1)pdm09-like virus (updated)
A/Hong Kong/45/2019 (H3N2)-like virus (updated)
B/Washington/02/2019 (B/Victoria lineage)-like virus (updated)
B/Phuket/3073/2013-like (Yamagata lineage) virus
Unfortunately, flu viruses constantly change so it’s not unusual for new viruses to appear.
Do some children require two doses of flu vaccine?
Yes. Children in the age group of 6 months to 8 years old who are getting vaccinated for the first time will need two doses of the flu vaccine spaced at least 4 weeks apart. Children who have only received one dose in their lifetime will also need two doses. If your child falls into the group, make sure to plan accordingly so you child is fully vaccinated before the flu season starts.
What if my child is too young to be vaccinated?
If your child is younger than 6 months old, they are at high risk of serious flu complications and unfortunately too young to get a flu vaccine. Because of this, safeguarding them from the flu is very important. Having yourself, as well as family members of friends who are around the baby vaccinated will help protect them from the flu. You should also take everyday preventative actions, such has staying away from sick people and washing your hands.
Can I still get the flu even if I was vaccinated?
Yes, it is still possible to get the flu even if you’ve been vaccinated. There are a few reasons this may happen.
You may have been exposed to a flu virus before getting vaccinated or in the 2 week period it takes your body to gain protection after getting the vaccine.
You may have been exposed to a flu virus that is not included in the flu vaccine. Each flu vaccine is made to protect against 3-4 flu viruses that research suggests will be most common.
Protection from the flu vaccine can vary person to person. In general, the flu vaccine works best among healthy younger adults and older children. Older people and people with chronic illnesses may develop less immunity after vaccination. Although the flu vaccine is not perfect, it is still the best way to protect against the flu.
There are a few things you can do to help prevent the flu from getting to you:
The best way to prevent the flu is to get vaccinated each year
Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
Cover your mouth and nose
covering your mouth and nose with a tissue can help prevent those around you from getting sick
Wash your hands often. Soap and water is best, but if those aren’t available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer
Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth
Germs are easily spread when a person touches something contaminated and then touches his or her eyes, nose, or mouth.
Practice other good habits
clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces at home, work, or school – especially when someone is ill! Be physically active, manage stress, drink plenty of fluids, and eat well.
How to Wash Your Hands:
What should I do if I get sick with the flu?
Most people with the flu will have mild symptoms and will not be in need of medical care or antiviral drugs. If you get the flu, stay home to avoid contact with other people except to get medical care. Make sure to get rest and to drink plenty of fluids. The CDC recommends you stay home for at least 24 hours after fever is gone (except to get medical care or other necessities).
You can take over the counter medicines to combat common symptoms like fevers, coughs, and sore throats. Make sure to check the label and call your Blue Hills doctor if you have any questions regarding medications. Antiviral treatments are also available to take. They work best within 48 hours of the first symptoms and can lessen and shorten the flu. Call the office if you think you have the flu or you think you were exposed.
The CDC is a great resource for more information about the flu. Click here to go to their website.